Free State art across borders

The three artists at Oliewenhuis Art Museum where they presented on their experience in Dakar, Senegal. Photo: Gypseenia Lion

Three Free State artists with a knack for art and creativity had the opportunity to travel further afield to showcase their work at the 14th Dak’Art: African Contemporary Art Biennale earlier this year in Dakar.

Elrie Joubert, Pauline Gutter and Sylvester Mqeku come from different creative spaces but found a common thread when they discovered that they live in the same province. Covid-19 may have come with several restrictions for artists across the world but for these local artists it opened room for inspiration.

One of Sylvester Mqeku’s ceramic masks. Photo: Supplied

Sylvester, a ceramic artist, who created a “creative response” to the mask laws with his three mask installations titled Disguise, Performance and Protection said his playful approach to the notion of masking developed when he returned from his first visit to Dakar in 2019.

“The artwork is the final product of a long process that transforms the way of thinking,” he told Bloemfontein Courant.

Pauline said that to have her Encroaching Stray installation exhibited at the prestigious biennale is every artist’s dream. The artwork is made from rubber and polyurethane waste from a manufacturing plant in Johannesburg.

“When we did the work. We pushed it. It wasn’t just about pasting things against a wall. We created it. For me it was the standard I set when I entered the project,” she said. “It is a pulse that drives you. Everybody should live in that spirit,” Pauline added.

It took Pauline Gutter and Elrie Joubert four days to install their artwork at the bienalle. Photo: Supplied.

For Elrie, it does not matter where you come from – you need to be hungry for what is out there. “It’s that hunger that you need to have and then also to take a chance; do something you want and never give up,” she said.

As proud Free State artists, they agree that the province is unique – one that has its own story to tell through art, with many opportunities for artists to grow.

“It [traveling abroad] informs how we can look at ourselves when we come back. The art career at first is about how you’re going to survive. It’s about navigating and combining both the art and survival,” Sylvester said.

Gypseenia Lion