UNDERLINE – a new exhibition platform for independent curators

UNDERLINE – an innovative curatorial platform and exhibition – was hosted at the Museum of African Design (MOAD) in Johannesburg, South Africa, from the 12th until the 15th of September

In their own words, “The 2019 UNDERLINE show offered a platform to a remarkable group of independent voices from South Africa and beyond”, this is not only a true statement but UNDERLINE also ended up being a highlight of ‘art week’ – that this year saw a plethora of art events taking place across the city of Johannesburg.

Warther Dixon, The Dual Door. ©ART AFRICA/Stephan Rheeder

Founded by independent curators Natasha Becker, Londi Modiko and Lara Kossef, UNDERLINE was true to its mandate of supporting independent voices in contemporary art and offered a refreshing flip side to the established market offerings of FNB Art Joburg, the newly launched LATITUDES Art Fair and SculptX.

There was an extensive list of supporting sponsors and partners which is a testament to the collaborative nature of this platform which was presented under the sections CURATED, FEATURED, SITE, PERFORMANCE and CONVERSATIONS. The core of the show was the 12 projects presented under the CURATED section throughout the Museum of African Design in Maboneng and titled: ‘WOMXN Underground’, ‘The Whole Universe is Full’, ‘Yenza Kwenzeke’, ‘Familial Threads’, ‘//Hui !Gaeb Where Clouds Gather’, ‘Portals’, ‘Johannesburg // Fragmenting Space and Time’, ‘Prepossessing the future’, ‘AMBUSH’, ‘Middle Centre’, ‘The Rose that Grew from Concrete’ and ‘Street View’.

T-shirt from ‘The Rose that Grew from Concrete’, curated by Black Chalk & Co.

‘The Rose that Grew from Concrete’ is a particularly engaging project curated by Black Chalk & Co.: Tinashe Mushakavanhu and Nontsikelelo Mutiti who presented a show about iconic Zimbabwean writer, Dambudzo Marechera, based on the last five years of his life as a writer-tramp in Harare. Another highlight included Nthabiseng Mokoena’s ‘The Whole Universe is Full’, a group show of drawings, digital prints, and sculptural installation by Keneilwe Mokoena and Mmabatho Grace Mokalapa. Through comparing works by these two artists, the exhibition takes a look outward to the expanse of the cosmos and peers inward to the phenomenon of existing in the universe. The juxtaposition of the two artist’s wall-hung works was especially interesting in relation to the sculptural interventions. CURATED was supplemented with a dynamic programme of performances, talks and special projects over the three-day event.

‘The Whole Universe is Full’, curated by Nthabiseng Mokoena.

The PERFORMANCE programme was presented in partnership with the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, where all the 2019 shortlisted candidates of the prestigious David Koloane Award were presented. forkingknife, in particular, was a notable performance that saw Benjamin Skinner pulling a cart upon which Oupa Sibeko, sitting in a large round cast iron pot, threw cash at onlookers as the performance made its way through the crowds. The piece was also performed at the FNB Art Joburg fair.

Oupa Sibeko, forkingknife. Performed at the FNB Art Joburg. ©ART AFRICA/Storm Simpson

CONVERSATIONS, supported by A4 Arts Foundation, was a space to share practical experience and critical engagement on the practice of curating and presented a wide range of speakers from the continent and abroad. FEATURED, featured artists and other projects whilst SITE presented a series of site-specific and interactive works by local and international artists.

With a combined local and international experience of more than 20 years in the contemporary art world, the all-women team of UNDERLINE have presented a fresh platform that not only embraces the more edgy side of town but also engages more equitably with the real demographics of the city.

ART AFRICA looks forward to the next edition of this much-needed platform.