David Madlabane - Essence
David Madlabane - Essence

Africa’s first international art fair recently celebrated its eleventh year — and the continent’s art landscape is flourishing.

The annual Joburg Art Fair was held for the eleventh time in 2018, and it was a stunning showcase of visual art from around the continent. With exhibitions in four categories — contemporary galleries, solo presentations, limited editions, and art platforms — the event saw local and international collectors, curators, artists, and art patrons converge for one of Africa’s most exciting art events. Here are just a few of our favourite features from this year’s offering.


A powerful installation

Sue Williamson’s large-scale installation titled Messages from the Atlantic Passage was originally presented at Art Basel in Switzerland last year. It was brought to the Joburg Art Fair this year for its powerful narrative of the movement of slaves across the Atlantic Ocean. The installation is an extension of the artist’s acclaimed Messages from Moat, which listed the slaves brought to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Trading Company between 1658 and 1972. Three fishing nets, each of which represents a specific voyage from West Africa across the Atlantic, are filled with glass bottles containing traces of earth and suspended from the ceiling. Each bottle is hand engraved with information of the slaves on the voyage, including their African name, the name given by the slaver, the country of origin, and the age, sex and height of each known individual.

Sue Williamson's Messages from the Atlantic Passage
Sue Williamson’s Messages from the Atlantic Passage

The art prize

Every year, FNB awards a highly coveted art prize to one of the fair’s participating artists, and Cape Town-born artist and activist Haroon Gunn-Salie was this year’s recipient. Gunn-Salie is an experimental installation and ‘intervention’ artist whose work is characterised by the political statements it makes. His 34-piece installation titled Senzenina memorialises the miners killed in the 2012 Marikana massacre and was displayed in an acoustically adapted, dimly lit and immersive space at the Sandton Convention Centre.

Haroon Gunn-Salie's Senzenina sculpture
Haroon Gunn-Salie’s Senzenina sculpture

The featured artist

The Joburg Art Fair has become increasingly popular for its support of contemporary African art, and in the spirit of recognising new artists, a featured artist is announced annually. 2018’s featured artist was Billie Zangewa, who works primarily with raw silk off-cuts to create hand-stitched collages. Her pieces, which feature scenes of everyday domestic life, are an exploration of identity, as well as a challenge of historical stereotypes and exploitation of the black female body.

Billie Zangewa - Temporary Reprieve (silk collage)
Billie Zangewa – Temporary Reprieve (silk collage)

Young artists

As part of the event, Cartier collaborated with students from the acclaimed Johannesburg-based art school, The Artist Proof Studio, to exhibit work by young artists. All of the works were inspired by the Cartier Love and Juste un Clou collections and included live and interactive printing demonstrations. The result was a collection of artworks that truly embodied the creativity and innovative spirit of the young artists. Cartier country manager Sheila-Anne Johnston described the creations as “daring and utterly original in style”.  Two winners were announced — Dudu More, who created linocut prints titled Night and Day, each of which is bold and modern designs; and David Madlabane, whose piece, Essence, is a striking linocut with hand colouring.

'Night' by Dudu More
‘Night’ by Dudu More

As one of the sponsors of the Joburg Art Fair, Cartier exhibited a collection of artworks at their very own Cartier Lounge, which was designed by Jean du Rand Interiors. They also displayed exclusive high-end jewellery creations, including a brand-new slimmer version of the Juste un Clou bracelet. “Just like a piece of art, Cartier creates for clients who are looking for a strongly recognisable design and a distinctive style,” explained Cartier’s Sheila-Anne Johnston.