Stellenbosch, South Africa

At the Stellenbosch Triennale, an exhibition of art that happens every three years, the current exhibition of work by Pan-Africanist artists re-creates the colonial and apartheid-era city of Stellenbosch in an attempt to see how art can make change and bring healing.

“It’s beautifully audacious,” [the slam poet Adrian “Diff” van Wyk] said. “This place just needs disruption, constant disruption.”

Read more in this review by Siddhartha Mitter from The New York Times.

The curator Bernard Akoi-Jackson photographing Ibrahim Mahama’s elongated and stylized coffins made from local timber. The Ghanian artist finds new meaning in commonplace materials around him.Credit…Kent Andreasen for The New York Times

14 thoughts on “Stellenbosch, South Africa

  1. Anthony Tiberia

    This article was very suspicious which left a lot of open-ended statements regarding the organization of the art exhibition. The area surrounding the Stellenbosch exhibition recently became influx with money which explains the influence area posses and the resources that supported this exhibit. The exhibition itself seemed like a great presentation of modern African art. It ties back all aspects of their culture including childhood games, religion. historical significance. Some works even represent stands against their government leaders, showing a more democratic type of government growing within Africa.

    1. Emily Hilbert

      It has always been sad these past few weeks to see so many good exhibits and events shut down due to the Corona Virus and this is no exception. Exhibitions and art installations that serve to truly bring communities together are few and far between these days, so discovering that an exhibit doing just that has been shut down, is truly heartbreaking. I do enjoy, however, finding a way to display both historical and modern art together, to really showcase the progression and development that has occurred over the last hundreds of years

  2. Zach Adams

    The Stellenbosch exhibition seems to be turning a lot of peoples heads and for good reason. I seemed like the art was brining people together and brining people there that no one would expect to see. The main focus was African art and it seemed to do a good job of that with all sorts of art. It’s too bad it got shut down once the whole corona virus happened since it would have been interesting to see what else this exhibition did and who came to it

  3. Nathaniel Holic

    Definitely not where I would initially suspect a contemporary art display, but the idea behind the art and the people it is targeting to draw in gives for an understanding. After reading the article I looked even more into the art that was displayed and some pieces were breathtaking. Glad I was able to learn about this event.

  4. Anya Lea Gurin-Hirschoff

    I think the presmise of setting up a Pan-African art exhibit in a place that has a bad history of apartheid and segregation is a bold one. Whily the money aspect is cause for suspicion, there seems to be a lot of efforts to try and begin the process of healing the wounds that have been caused. Of course, Black South Africans cannot just go from being justly angry at the elites of Stellenbosch to offering forgiveness right away, but the fact that the city is hosting the exhibit is a baby step in the right direction. It also helps that the artists that came to display their work did not shy away from their critiques of the racist institutions that have and continue to affect the local communities of color.

  5. Maddy Sever

    I love the idea of this exhibit being shown periodically in a place with such an upsetting history of apartheid. It’s bold, and I think that that’s the most impactful part of art. I think this is a perfect example that shows how art can be used for healing and to start a conversation surrounding painful subject matter, and bring both sides of the conflict together in order to create mutual understanding and begin the process of healing. Obviously the unjust actions of those from Stellenbosch cannot be mended by an art exhibit alone; the process is long and difficult. The exhibit however, is an effective way to make an impact and start a conversation between both parties.

  6. Michael Srover

    I thought it was great that this event brought together groups of people that have had such a long history of tension between them. It’s too bad that they were forced to shut down the event but hopefully there will be more in the future. Also, the artwork looked really amazing and it was good to see people bond over a common interest.

  7. Michaela Steinbauer

    This installation had a big message to bring. Placing an art exhibit in a previously discriminatory area with the “intention of healing” is a very bold move. It does go to show that art can be used for ANYTHING. Any message that you want to convey or any thought running through your head can be represented by art. This exhibition sparked controversy due to its crippling past, but the placement was genius.

  8. Joseph Hairston

    After reading this post, firstly I’m truly impress that given the past and “present” history of Triennale that this contemporary art exhibition is being received favorably and viewed by many different people from many walks of life. Secondly, how this art is making change and bringing healing to the South African people. And lastly, this is a great example of how art helps all societies come together for the good of Mankind. How art transcends cultures’ boundaries, all hurts and all pains. How it is one of many universal languages (i.e. food, music, dance, etc.) that have no need for translations because we all speak them.

  9. Elizabeth Glenn

    The coronavirus has caused many good events and exhibits to be closed for the foreseeable future. This is truly regretful because things like art and music are ways to bring communities together. Not just local communities but people from other communities as well. Since all events and exhibits have been closed there is less chance for people to see this art work. The Stellenbosch exhibits main focus was African art, it 20 artist being shown before it was closed. Each installation had some type of message that was conveyed through the art. These messages make you really think about have and haven’t changed in the past couple hundred years.

  10. Melissa Beirne

    I love how the art and it’s location were meant to cause a statement. I feel like when placing art in this location it will bring more meaning and value to the pieces because of what they are standing for. The pieces and the exhibit will have such a large impact outside of the individual pieces, which I think is wonderful.

  11. Stephanie Cruz

    A place like Stellenbosch where it has history engraved in it and pain, it is astonishing how people can make art of it. The artists embrace their history but try to bring people together with it and heal with art. There are things like discrimination that were part of history but it still present today, and the artists in their inspiration want to bring awareness and bring people closer with their art. It is sad to see places where art has a healing message being shut down. I am glad I learned about the artists and their motives in their art.

  12. Elena Streeter

    The thought that art can “make change and bring healing” is actually very realistic to me. I know that some see this “experiment” in South Africa as being controversial, but aren’t the intentions good? I think this is someone trying to make a difference through art.

  13. Lana Bizeau

    I find that the location of the Stellenbosch Triennale gallery is quite powerful. While I recognize the reasons why it should be placed in a majoritively black town, I believe that its presence in Stellenbosch serves a better purpose. It’s a symbol of integration, and reminds the injustices of segregation to those who should be reminded of it most: privileged Afrikaans. Andi Norton, a board member of the Stellenbosch Outdoor Sculpture Trust remembers the opening of the triennale as “a group of people that [she] hadn’t thought [she] would ever see in the same place.” The Triennale’s presence in Stellenbosch draws both black and white Africans across the invisible lines of segregation which were supposed to end with Apartheid. It moves me to think that art has the power to bring people together.


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