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Celebrate Africa’s Most Talented Contemporary Artists at RMB Latitudes Art Fair

At RMB Latitudes Art Fair, rising contemporary artists and the more established take over the majestic grounds of Shepstone Gardens

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By Kimberley Schoeman  | May 5, 2024 | Art

This Africa Day, we turn to Johannesburg for one of its most exciting events on the city’s artistic calendar: RMB Latitudes Art Fair at the picturesque Shepstone Gardens, from 24-26 May.

As RMB Latitudes Art Fair gears up for its second edition, one of the Fair’s Special Projects – the Independent Artist Exhibition, AKA: INDEX – has announced the bringing together of an exciting group of independent artists from South Africa, the African region, and the diaspora.

In its second year as a platform, RMB Latitudes’ INDEX continues to push towards subversion. Defying the common rules that require artists to be presented by a gallery at a fair, INDEX strives towards the breaking of those barriers to entry which exclude independent artists from art fair participation.

Photography by Alexander Smith.

This platform manifests itself as a group exhibition, and in an ironic twist of requirements, necessitates that the featured artists be independent artists. INDEX curator, Denzo Nyathi, explores what it means to be independent, when independent artists so often practice in collectivity, and form quasi-institutions of their own.

Embraced (2022) by Sahlah Davids. Image: Supplied.

“What does it mean to be a part of a group exhibition, amongst a seemingly unrelated cohort of people, and thus highlighting differences?”, asks Nyathi. “What does it mean for independent artists - who might occupy the margins of the commercial art sector - to occupy space in the beating heart of a commercial art event like a fair?”

Garden 6PM (2022) by Ntsako Nkuna.Image: Supplied.

The exhibition, entitled The Orchid and The Wasp: Thin Lines of Becoming, nestles itself between ‘us’ and ‘them’, noting how those imagined entities might, and often do, touch. At its root, INDEX 2024 questions the idea of belonging, going so far as to ask if/where the curator(ial) belongs in the art fair.

This issue of what it means to belong is taken beyond contemplating how it is we might all fit into the skew-built-boxes of art speak. The artists in this exhibition come from all walks of life (and across the continent), but are united at the point of contemplation around the complexity of where we belong.

Photography by Alexander Smith.

For some, the contemplation is the complexity of belonging within racial identity (as with Chuma Adam and Nathaniel Sheppard). Some artists, like Thero Makepe and Ayanfe Olarinde, find themselves between the history and culture of the past, and how it fits with their contemporary experiences. Similarly, Sahlah Davids and Lorraine Kalassa consider this even more intimately, with family as reference. In other artists’ work, things as material as the glass of a cell phone (Chloe Shain) or hard edges of metal fencing (Ntsako Nkuna) are physical manifestations of the paradoxes of belonging/division we are so entrenched in. And materialising the very self-referential basis of this exhibition, Kutti Collective produces work that thinks through the fact of being in collectivity.

Artwork by Nathaniel Sheppard set to be on show at INDEX. Image: Supplied.

“Such is the entice of the 2024 iteration of INDEX”, concludes Nyathi. “The question of ‘what are we all even doing here’, is what likely continues to bring us together, as art audiences, curators, artists and organisers alike. At the very least, it would be far less fun to rave about or complain about art if we read in isolation a piece from its contemporary moment, our artists from their peers, and these practices from their industry. Such is the devilish, delicious entice of it all.”