CWM IG Auction| Meet the Curators: Thembi Matroshe

Thembakazi Matroshe, affectionately known as Thembi, is a Johannesburg-based independent art curator, art advisor, and art project co-ordinator who is passionate about uplifting & empowering marginalized groups in society; particularly black, queer, femme and gender non-binary individuals. She uplifts these groups through curating and creating content around art, health, wellness & beauty. Her approach to curatorship is to work towards achieving decolonized archives and spaces for knowledge production.

She is currently a Masters candidate in Heritage and Culture at University of the Witswaterstrand, and also forms part of our amazing women curators for our IG Auction to close off Creative Women Month. We had a chat with her about the auction and much more:

Briefly tell us about yourself and your creative journey, how did you end up where you are today?

I was always interested in Fine Art at a young age. I took Visual Art in high school and had a very encouraging art teacher who pushed me towards studying art history in university because of my interest in the theory behind the art. After my undergrad, where I majored in English literature and art history, I did [my] Honours in Curatorship at the University of Cape Town, Michaelis School of Fine Art. From then onwards, I became interested in the business of art and began my art dealing and art consultancy business. I am currently studying my Masters in Heritage and Public Culture at the University of Witwatersrand as my current interests are leading me towards a direction in policy management within the arts. 

How are you preparing for the upcoming auction?

My preparation for any kind of show is never linear. I usually work collaboratively within my curatorial collective, the Re-curators, so I haven’t worked on a project on my own in a while.

Typically, I reach out to artists within my network. This is always online as most artists now use Instagram as a portfolio. When I conceptualised the showcase, I already had people in mind who would fit this particular theme. I also reached out to a colleague, Luvuyo Equiano Nyawose, to share readings with me and bounce off certain frameworks because I really am against the notion of curators thinking and writing about their exhibitions alone.  

Talk us through your process of searching for and selecting the artists you have selected to take part in the auction.

Once I reach out to the artists I make it known that I enjoy collaborative work, so I am always open to suggestions regarding the theme and artist selection. For example, I had reached out to one artist who did not have any work available but he did however suggest two other artists who I ended up approaching to submit work for the show.

Is there a specific artistic theme or criteria you looked for? If so, what criteria or theme is this?

Yes, this will be the very first iteration of a larger physical showcase I am planning. I am thinking around ideas of black joy and centering the pleasure of oppressed people. I aim to prod around the contradictions of the overwhelming visibility and invisibility of black people’s pain. In the past few months, there has been a surge in circulating imagery from protests, victims of gender based violence as well as the constant memeification of black women’s pain. It is evident that representation plays an integral part in the relationship between black bodies and pain (or lack thereof).

Through centering black joy, fragility, softness, sensuality, sexuality, and freedom, we begin to decolonise our imagination of the black, oppressed, gendered, unsexed, and distressed body. This is an act of radical resistance. I am exploring the notions of Black Joy and #BlackGirlMagic as forms of political resistance. I do, however, tread lightly around these concepts as they tend to represent black people as mystical beings. 

What role do creatives play in ensuring women-related issues are brought awareness and women in arts are celebrated?

I can only speak for myself in saying that I aim to use my platform to create space and take up space. I do not think that should be prescribed as people who work within creative industries have varying interests and political priorities. However, my platform aims to center the lived experiences of black, queer, femme individuals. I do this through engaging with emerging artists and deliberately inserting and making visible those who have been overlooked in the art history canon. By meditating conversations with art collectors and integrating their works into historically important collections and archives – I am now interested in ways in which policy can be shifted to address such inequalities from an institutional point of view.

Look out for Thembi’s Auction on our Instagram page between the 31st of August to the 3rd of September.

Between 10 and 5