Molemo Moiloa is the Director of the Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA), and one half of the artists collaborative titled MADEYOULOOK. She has also been the Treasurer for Arterial Network South Africa (ANSA) since late 2016. With an interest in what she calls the “everyday socio-political imaginary,” Molemo has channeled her academic and artistic pursuits into the development of the South African arts and cultural scene, incorporating collaborative best practices and relationships developed across the continent. In this interview, Molema discusses the intersections between her professional and artistic interests, elitism within the contemporary art scene and other barriers to local development.
ARTERIAL NETWORK: To begin with, could you please tell us more about your current work with the Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA)? How would you say that a network of this kind has benefitted the local visual arts community?
MOLEMO MOILOA: VANSA plays an important role in the sector. Even before I joined the VANSA team, as a member of the network I deeply valued the information that they shared. VANSA benefits the visual arts community in a number of obvious ways. Examples would be providing a platform for sharing opportunities in the sector, developing and sharing free information on how to function better and work within the sector, as well as services such as our legal helpdesk. Through these kinds of programmes, members are better able to network and connect to what is happening in the sector, as well as being supported to do their best within it. However, VANSA also supports the sector in numerous ‘invisible ways,’ such as conducting research – on which we rely heavily on the network and the information it provides – as well as contributing to and impacting on policy changes that affect the visual arts community.
Your academic interests include both Fine Art and Social Anthropology, on which you lectured at the University of the Witswatersrand. Could you tell us how these subjects intersect for you? How have these interests translated into your work today?
Anthropology has deepened my visual arts practice and approach. In Anthropology I have found support and freedom to engage in people’s issues, to commit myself and my work to social change and to explore the potential of personal and human engagement. There has long been more space for this in Anthropology than in contemporary art. Anthropology is primarily about seeking to understand people and how people impact with one another, and the arts actually do a similar thing so they work very well together.
Your collective work under the moniker MADEYOULOOK with Nare Mokgotho aims to break down elitist barriers around access to art and knowledge about arts and culture. During your Sermon on the Train series, you invited WITS University Lecturers to present their lectures on the Metrorail. What is new from MADEYOULOOK, and what have you learned about the exclusivity/ elitism of the sector? Do you feel access has opened up since you began actively observing it and interrupting the status quo?
Much has changed since we initially began working together. We started as students and didn’t feel affinity with the kinds of work we were being encouraged to make – save for a few examples. Today creating work that is politically motivated and seeks to engage directly in daily life is much more accepted than it was at the time.
That said, the elitism of the field has not changed, and as far as challenging the University on its elitism, well, that has truly come to a head in South Africa as we know. The challenge with this kind of elitism is that it is able to subsume everything. So even though work for social change is more accepted in the field today, that acceptance is on the terms that it be consumed by the elitist market, and therefore is easily made powerless.
In late 2016, you were elected to be Arterial Network South Africa's (ANSA) Treasurer. Having been an ANSA member for a number of years, what does membership to this organisation mean to you, and where do you see the future of Arterial Network in South Africa?
Being part of ANSA means being part of a committed relationship to the African continent which is vital in a country like South Africa. Arterial Network is truly about seeking connections, answers and vision from an African perspective for the arts. Importantly it’s also multidisciplinary, and often disciplines act separately from each other in South Africa while in fact artists across the continent are increasingly working and collaborating across disciplines and blurring the traditional boundaries. These are exciting and important issues that need to be pushed forward in our domestic sector.
It’s also been challenging as all of ANSA’s work is done on a volunteer basis so we really need everyone to come on board to make things happen. I strongly believe that Arterial Network has a vital role to play in South Africa now and in the future.
Interviewer: Marie-Louise Rouget, Arterial Network
1 - VANSA
2 - Sermon on the Train, ART AFRICA
3 - Arterial Network
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