Calmness and focus came when the children started drawing. The excitement was palpable – it was the first time in the Iziko South Africa’s National Gallery for most of the 36 students and eight adults in the group. Initially there was a lot of running in the galleries, especially to get to the bathrooms – it had been an early start especially for the Langa kids.
After months of planning, the day arrived on Saturday, 16 September 2023 for VUSA Rugby & Learning Academy’s annual Culture Connect. 22 kids came with 5 interns from Langa, along with their Head of Academics, Lebo Mokoena.
14 boys came from Bishops Prep School in Rondebosch, accompanied by Sue Johns, their art teacher. Sue was key to arranging the first VUSA Culture Connect in 2021 – street art in Salt River and last year’s to the Norval Foundation. (Sue’s friend and colleague, Brendan Fogarty, set up VUSA; there are strong links between the organisations.)
Our host was Tamsanqa Mnkani, the Gallery’s new art educator. Like most of the students his first language is isiXhosa – the tour was bilingual.
Initially we had to keep saying (then shouting) “don’t run and don’t touch the art”.
It was fascinating to see which artworks caught the attention – Dada Khanyisa’s Sund’khotha bhuti (I have my own)), Mapula embroidery created during Covid, Blessing Ngobeni’s Land Exchange, Kufa Makwavarara’s Choir and Fikile Magadlela’s Untitled.
Initially students used their new sketch books, then Tamsanqa handed out outlines of the Gallery’s façade, to colour in. Sue gave tips like shading, tone and cross hatching. Everyone was so engrossed it didn’t matter at all that there were not enough bean bags – the floor was fine!
At 11h30, after an hour and an half, it was time for Rubro iced tea, dried fruit and fresh air in Company’s Garden. The BIG hit was a grey squirrel.
By Parliament we paired up to walk in ”crocodile” as we call it in the UK. We walked in a line, through the Arch 4 Arch, behind the Slave Lodge to Church Square, for lunch at the private venue, 6 Spin Street.
Exhibiting artist, Yanga Lingani (aka CoolG), joined us and inspired us with his 43 paintings. He answered all sorts of questions while we were served chicken in a peanut flavoured sauce, rice and courgette bake (garnished with flat leaved parsley, much to the amusement of my neighbour). The reward at the end was chocolate brownie.
My aim was to give the group the same experience I give to all Culture Connectors from here and around the world. Many thanks to the Culture Connectors who made this possible -donating for it specifically, or simply adding extra when paying me for their tour. (Parents of the Bishop’s boys who came donated to VUSA directly).
I was keen the group had good quality art materials. My favourite art shop, Artsauce, gave a discount on the hard backed sketch books, 4B pencils, rubbers, sharpeners and pencil cases which were greatly treasured.
I sincerely hope, and genuinely believe, that there will be special memories from this outing. I immediately got great feedback, with the only change suggested by some of the kids that there would be no veg next time (and more squirrels!).
Memories of your first art outing, comments and requests warmly received,
Many thanks, Kate
+27 72 377 8014