Co-founder of the FNB Joburg Art Fair, Cobi Labuscagne, expands our reading list and captures the many skilled contemporary artists along with their artwork in her newly launched children’s book titled Explore! Awesome South African Artists. The book explores South African art, allows children to dive into the South African Contemporary art scene by showcasing the diverse paths of artists and the fascinating artworks they create.
“For the past decade or so and up to very recently I created a big art fair every year. So I was deeply immersed in the world of African art. During this time I saw our SA and African artists become very prominent on the world stage. Each year we saw more institutional visitors, curators, buyers coming from all over the world and many of our artists gained serious critical recognition. That was amazing to witness,” says Labuscagne.
“But what was not so great was that i never really, in all the years, saw a critical mass grow around contemporary art through our visitor numbers. The numbers were good for an art event and probably higher than any other contemporary art exhibition, but I never saw aggressive growth – this regardless of a big advertising campaign, being annually recurring and lasting for such a long time. I got the sense that the conversation was staying between those already in the know. I did some asking around the parents at my kids’ school and the feeling was that the art fair was for those who already knew a lot about art and that they didn’t really know how to enter into that space,” she adds- the book is therefore a result of this finding.
“This seems like a pity because South Africa is blessed with thought-leading and boundary breaking artists. Art is one way through which nation building takes place and complex questions of belonging, identity and society are battled out. However many who are not in the ‘art world’ find the debates too exclusionary and hard to enter into. It is the job os us inside the art community to reach out and help others break in. One of the ways this can be achieved is through imparting knowledge to young people on the incredible artists that are alive and working today. Not only will young people see some of their own struggles and joys in the lives of these artists, but they will also build up a canon of knowledge, together with their parents on art as a form of expression and meaning in their own lives,”
The book features personal stories and artworks of William Kentridge, Nandipha Mntambo and Penny Siopis, Banele Khoza, Zander Blom, Billie Zangewa and many more.
Explore! Awesome South African Artist, illustrated by Lauren Mulligan, will certainly keep kids entertained with engaging prose and colourful designs -including illustrations of the artist’ most famous pieces.
The book is available and can be purchased from Jacana Media.