Monday, May 3, 2010

Showcasing South African Art to World Cup Visitors

Art graduate Riason Naidoo is proud to host an exhibition at the revamped Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town in time for the World Cup.

Naidoo, who is director of the newly revamped Iziko South African National Gal- lery in Cape Town, hopes to use indigenous art as a canvas to portray the history of the country and talent of local artists to visiting World Cup soccer fans.

The gallery re-opened last week, after a six-week revamp, to host a new exhibition celebrating one 100 years of South African art entitled: "1910-2010: From Pierneef to Gugulective."

This is Naidoo's first project after being appointed as director of arts collections at Iziko in May 2009. Naidoo decided to embark on this project ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

"I thought the World Cup is our time and it will be imperative to showcase South African art during this times, especially with the large number of tourists who will be visiting our shores," he said.

"The context of the World Cup also allows for a reflection on the diversity, strength and uniqueness of our own art history."

Naidoo and his staff used the time when the gallery was closed to source an exhibition which reflects SA's contribution to art and offers a glimpse of future artistic talent.

Naidoo's passion for art began at a young age when he started drawing and painting. It was at the beginning of his high-school career at Woodhurst Secondary, Chatsworth, that he was encouraged to study art by a teacher who saw his unique artistic talent.

After studying architecture for three years, Naidoo decided to follow his dream and pursue his first love of art.

He graduated in Fine Arts from the University of the Wit- watersrand in 1995. He recently completed his MA in Fine Arts at the same university while working on various projects.

His studies and interest in art has taken him to many countries, including India and France after he was awarded two scholarships.

The first was at the University of Baroda in India in 1997. Naidoo said his travels in India helped him "grow as a person" and rated it as an interesting experience.

During this time he observed the difference in lifestyles of people living in India and South Africans of Indian origin.

"Our value system is different from theirs. India is very much centered on the person and not the material side of things, which I think is special," said Naidoo.

His second scholarship was at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Bordeaux in France in 2001. After his return from France, he coordinated art projects for the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS).

Naidoo was also the art director of the South Africa-Mali Project: Timbuktu Manuscripts from its launch in 2003 to its culmination at the inauguration of the new building in January 2009.

He was tasked with helping the Malian government conserve the historic manu- scripts, which are testimony to a history of scientific inquiry, the writing of poetry, intellectual discourse and philosophical reflection.

One of the projects closest to Naidoo's heart was the Ranjith Kally exhibition which he regards as one of the highlights of his career.

He managed a photographic exhibition on the themes of memory, identity and race politics based on the work of photographer Ranjith Kally in 2004 and The Indian in DRUM magazine in the 1950s that have been hosted in museums locally and in Mali, Austria, Spain and France.

"That was a special moment for me. I did everything myself. It was rewarding that Kally got the attention that he deserved. All the major galleries bought his collections which was great," said Naidoo.

He gathers inspiration for his exhibitions and paintings from wanting to start afresh and recreating history and work that has been done.

"For me it's about doing something new. I am preoccupied with representing South African art, especially bringing together neglected history which is driven by my activism," he said.

Aside from his love for art Naidoo takes time out to cook which he enjoys doing when he has time. He loves travel- ling and considers himself a world music lover.

He hopes to open up South African art to the world and is encouraged by what the national gallery currently has to offer.

"I want to open up our gallery to beyond our borders, especially to the Afri- can continent.

"I have worked in Africa and know the quality of African art and what we have to showcase. The national gallery has the richness in art to showcase work from other countries as well," said Naidoo.


By: Avashnee Moodley

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