ZAM Reporter

Mandela Landscape and the art of coming together

Photo by Jan Meijer

'The unveiling of Mandela Landscape hails the beginning of an exciting partnership between the Artscape Theatre Centre and ZAM Magazine towards creative excellence.' This is what Artscape's CEO Marlene le Roux writes in a 'thank you letter' to ZAM. On February 16, 2017, a lithographic print of Mandela Landscape, a piece of art created by Dutch photographer and filmmaker Anton Corbijn and visual artist Berend Strik in support of ZAM, found its way into the Artscape's public hall, on view for Capetonians from all walks of life, permanently. The event attracted several hundreds of participants.

This 'all walks of life' might sound obvious to lovers of opera, gospel choirs, dance or hiphop but in a South African context the expression tells a hugely impressive story. Once the Nico Malan Theatre, founded in 1971, was an almost lily-white space. A slegs vir blankes bastion abusing arts and culture for the promotion of white superiority. The 'Nico Malan' celebrated Apartheid with dance and theatre and music.

Today the renamed theatre represents a different world. Under the leadership of Marlene le Roux Artscape has been transformed into a space where all people meet, where performing artists in a variety of disciplines find a home and artistic talent is being groomed. Artscape breathes the promise of a society dedicated to the ideals of equality for all. Only two years ago the statue of colonial imperialist Cecil John Rhodes was torn down on the Cape universities' campus. Today a decolonised future of a city still defined by so many hallmarks of a painful past is being re-imagined by the immense free space that is the Artscape Theatre. Step-by-step the transformation of post-Apartheid South Africa is taking shape.

One wishes change to happen faster, reaching out to all corners of society, not frustrated by the abuse of power and the betrayal of a dream so many South Africans fought for.  But change is happening, often against the grain, and Artscape is evidence of it.

The ZAM Team is extremely impressed by this work in progress. Donating a copy of Mandela Landscape is an expression of this appreciation. 'Let us say thank you', Bart Luirink said at the cultural event right after the unveiling. 'Artscape inspires us as the embodiment of the non-racist and non-sexist principles that guided he South African struggle for democracy and a better life for all. These principles are meaningful to people worldwide especially now since the politics of hatred and division are on the rise. ZAM is rooted in the solidarity movements with the struggles against apartheid and colonialism. Those who were part of that movement don't feel that they have 'sacrificed' time and energy in solidarity with a far-away fight. Today your experiences, your debates, your strenghts and failures – your journey – transcends the petty arrogance of those who deny African change makers their crucial importance and impact in our common struggle to break down the walls between 'them' and 'us'.

 ZAM envisages building a Chain of Solidarity between people and civil institutions who share this desire. The partnership between Artscape and ZAM enables both parties to work together, to share ideas, to increase visibility and to support and inspire each other.

The unveiling took place in the presence of many friends of ZAM and Artscape, visiting or based in Cape Town: among them Ms. Zindzi Mandela, South Africa's Ambassador to Denmark, two of Nelson Mandela's grandchildren, ZAM Ambassador Conny Braam, the Dutch consul in Cape Town Bonnie Horbach, former Anglican Dean Rowan Smith, former Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan, photographer Yasser Booley, representatives of the City of Cape Town and many more.

Want to know more about Artscape's powerful CEO Marlene le Roux? Watch these videos: I am woman Part 1 and Part 2.

Photo credits: Artscape photographer, #cocreateSA and Jan Meijer