Extract from 'level' an ongoing investigation by Thomas and Jenah Barry in collaboration with Juliana Venter 2009.
Creative consultants & Project management
Maputaland Residencies - South Africa.
The remote subtropical coastal area of astonishing natural beauty in North-Eastern, Kwazulu Natal Province, known as Maputaland is not only a center of endemism, but also a documented center of diversity across the taxonomic spectrum, incorporating one of the first World Heritage Sites proclaimed in South Africa. Maputaland is home to an ubandance of nature with a fascinating cultural and volatile political history, making it fertile ground for artists.
Residency Program: Site-specificity is a central concern of contemporary art - particular histories and contexts form an important part of contemporary art practice, The range of sites visited on this program is sure to challenge and inspire individual artists, stimulate debate and inform discourse, while encouraging the development of collective projects.The program is centered on providing local participants and cultural practitioners an opportunity to network and international participants time to consider their work in an African context. Participants are expected to engage with the broader context of their residence, through for example, workshops, producing work or participating in public discussions. Following from the emphasis on cultural exchange, the residency is being networked internationally to similar programs. The Program endeavors to seek out dynamic relationships with supportive organizations and institutions that will ensure the sustainability of the program in the short, medium and long term. Participating artists will have the opportunitiy to showcase work locally, regionally and internationally, subject to funding and agreements.
Funding: Residencies usually provide artists with accommodation, studio facilities, and a budget to produce work depending on the context and length of stay. The ultimate aim of the Maputaland residency is to become self sustaining through the sale or donations of work by participating artists in exchange for participation in the program.
Applications: Residencies are generally funded programs, set up to facilitate international cultural and creative dialogue, providing artists with the context and support for intense, focussed work. The Maputaland Residency program will review applications, before selecting local and international participants.
Exhibitions: Showcasing the work of participating artists is an important component of the program, providing participants an opportunity to gain exposure and provide a showcase for the project outside of its relatively remote context. This aspect of the program is crucial to creating a sustainable program.
Significance: The Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Biodiversity Hotspot, lies along the east coast of southern Africa below the Great Escarpment and extends from the Limpopo River in the extreme southern parts of Mozambique through Mpumalanga Province, Swaziland and KwaZulu-Natal Province, to the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa in the south. The region is not only a center of endemism, but also a documented center of diversity across the taxonomic spectrum, incorporating one of the first World Heritage Sites proclaimed in South Africa.
Hotspots: The Earth is currently experiencing a staggering loss of species through extinction due to unsustainable consumption in many countries and debilitating poverty in others, as a result biodiversity that took millions of years to evolve is being lost. Extinction is the gravest aspect of the biodiversity crisis: it is irreversible. Ecologist Norman Myers defined the biodiversity hotspot concept in 1988 to address the dilemma that conservationists face - what areas are the most immediately important for conserving biodiversity? The biodiversity hotspots hold especially high numbers of endemic species, yet their combined area of remaining habitat covers only a tiny portion of the Earth's land surface. Each hotspot faces extreme threats and has already lost much of its original natural vegetation. Over half of the world’s plant species and much of all terrestrial vertebrate species are endemic to these biodiversity hotspots, making some of the most remarkable places on earth, also the most threatened.‘Hotspots’ are the Earth’s Biologically richest and most endangered terrestrial ecoregions. A new analysis of the biodiversity hotspots identifies 34 regions worldwide where 75 percent of the planet’s most threatened mammals, birds, and amphibians survive within habitat covering just 2.3 percent of the Earth’s surface.
Biodiversity: The region is diverse in many respects: There are at least three clear foci of high endemism and high diversity in the area, the names of which have been amalgamated as the name of this hotspot. These foci are Maputaland or Tongaland in the north, Pondoland further south, and Albany in the southwest. The focus of the residency will be on Maputaland, providing a unique opportunity to visit learn and contribute to this vibrant rural area of great significance. The region is floristically rich, with one of the most notable mammals, the southern subspecies of the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum). This species was once common and widely distributed throughout southern and East Africa. The southern race narrowly survived extinction in the KwaZulu-Natal's Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, which acted as a refuge when the southern white rhino was at its most vulnerable, being reduced to a few dozen in number. In one of the greatest conservation success stories in African conservation, the southern white rhino has since increased in number to more than 12 000, with many having been relocated to other areas.
A view of the ancient fish kraals at Enkovukeni, Kosi Bay
People: The region is very densely populated (over 20 million people), with extensive informal township and urban development, especially along the coastline. The region is culturally diverse with groups centered in the Maputaland region including Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi, Ronga, Shangaan, English, Afrikaans and Indian. Portuguese is one of the official languages in Mozambique and is widely spoken and understood in the Mozambican part of the hotspot.
Objectives: To develop the Maputaland area as an arts and cultural destination, by offering an internationally unique residency experience, in a rural setting that also actively engages the international art community. The Maputaland residency will be a catalyst to inform perspectives on international contemporary art practice, with exhibitions and benefit events that build audiences within the international arts and culture community, driving positive media, visitor traffic, and economic activity for communities throughout the region while creating opportunities for artists internationally.
Short term objectives: To develop a financialy sustainable cultural project based on fair trade practices. A portion of income generated by the project will be allocated to bursaries for particpiants, capacity building in community development projects, based on merit as well as the development of a community art centre and the employment of arts administrators and staff. A percentage of revenue generated will go to participating artists as agreed subject to sales. In the long term the project should become self sustaining through sales and strategic partnerships.The establishment of a local arts project: which will require ongoing administration, fundraising and support. It will aim to become be a unifying project that is representative of the many communities and crafts practitioners in the region. A potential site for this project would be the proposed market at the Webster research camp. The establishment of a project based at the memorial could provide the basis for ongoing commissions and support for local communities.
Long term objectives: To create a unique, sustainable cultural experience and a working model for similar projects internationally.
Executive Summary: Contact Us
“What I remember about Mboza is the early morning mist, it was so dense and gave the place a kind of ethereal quality. In the evenings kids would lead the cattle back from a day of grazing. I remember watching them from the edge of the lake as they walked by. I remember the showers smelling of fire water, the dust that stuck to my skin, crackling fires at night and Brave Red presiding over everything.” Ann Marie Peña
Local Traditional Practitioners and Artisans
Community Based activities
Khetiwe Sibiya, a member of the Siya Phambili committee, who works with her mother Maphuthuma
Tembe as a traditional practitioner. There are approximately eighteen people working in craft in her
Themba Mthetwa, of the Malangeni Development Committee works as a traditional practitioner
making grass thatching, reed walling and wooden fencing. There are approximately 25 men and
women in his community working in traditional building and craft techniques
Mthetwa says that to make a traditional fence of a large field takes six months. It takes 1-2 months to
dry a bundle of reeds. One reed hut takes 2-3 months to make, with the help of friends from the
community, and lasts approximately 10 years.