Libode sculptor gets spot as French artist-in-residence

Experience can boost local artist’s portfolio and exposure to markets

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A Libode-born fine artist, Lwandiso Njara, has a shot at gaining entry into international markets after being selected for a three-month artist’s residency in France.
Speaking to the Daily Dispatch, Njara said he hoped to inspire young people from his Qandu village who, through his story, would know that it was possible to attract an international audience, even if one had a rural background.
He will leave for France in July.
“Everyone is excited almost as much as I am and that makes me happy. This opportunity will help me get more exposure and since I will not be taking any work with me, I am looking forward to just being influenced and inspired by the new environment and producing new work there,” he said.
Njara, 31, identifies as a sculptor although he draws and paints as well.
He describes his work as centred around the contradictions encapsulated by his Catholic education and Xhosa ancestral rituals. Through his pieces, he explores identity construction, spiritual awakening and development inspired by his boyhood years in rural Transkei.
Njara’s invitation to France was through a collaboration between the Southern African Foundation For Contemporary Art (Saffca) and the French Association of Contemporary Art Support of South Africa (AFSACSA).
The aim of the collaboration and residency is to support, nurture and promote the visual arts and artists of southern Africa and to assist them in linking local to global.
Njara holds a B-Tech (fine arts) from the Tshwane University of Technology. He says he was grateful for the invitation because the art industry was communal and collaborative, and such initiatives were the best way to gain access to global markets and audiences.
“Our industry is not difficult to break into but it is all about the right exposure. In order to get [that one break you must] not isolate yourself and work alone. Our art industry in SA is growing but you need collaborations,” said Njara.
He said he would also spend the three months in France to preparing for his solo exhibition.
“Art has always been something I was passionate about. I can remember being a child who always used to draw.
“So I went and studied just that.
“My parents were a bit wary because ‘artists are poor’.
“I believe if you focus and know what you want you can make it because there are many opportunities,” he said.
Pierre Lombart, one of the founding directors of  AFSACSA – an association located in Saint-Émilion in France, responsible for developing in Europe the actions of Saffca – said every year the organisation invited four SA artists to France.
In addition, four French artists come to SA as part of an exchange programme.
“What is really interesting is the multi-cultural conversations that happen through art.
“We create this opportunity not for tourism, but for the artist to really explore their talent and for the world exposure. There is no money to be gained but this is an opportunity that definitely adds to their resumé and portfolio,” Lombart said...

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