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Yebo Art Gallery Annual Review 2011

Composed by Jaap Koster Khulekani Msweli

Introduction ........................................................................................................................ 4 Directors ............................................................................................................................. 5 Aims and Method of this Report ....................................................................................... 5 Facilities and Services at Yebo Art Gallery ...................................................................... 6 Social Responsibility .......................................................................................................... 7 Overview of Exhibitions .................................................................................................... 9 Exhibitions Review ............................................................................................................ 11 Artists .................................................................................................................................. 12 Artist Questionnaire ........................................................................................................... 13 Local Actors ........................................................................................................................ 17 Organisations Questionnaire ............................................................................................. 18 Challenges ........................................................................................................................... 23 Achievements ...................................................................................................................... 24 Current Situation and Way Forward ................................................................................ 25

Yebo Art Gallery

Annual Review

Yebo art gallery was founded in January 2011 by Peter, Dane and Aleta Armstrong. The gallery is located in Ezulwini, one of Swaziland's prime commercial and tourism hotspots. It boasts two shopping centres, casinos, a nature reserve, hotels, lodges and many restaurants. Ezulwini is currently experiencing a boom in construction which is changing the tourism landscape as more businesses are relocating to the valley. Historically, the valley has been at the centre of political and cultural activity, housing the parliament, national museum and King's memorial. The valley also hosts the annual Reed Dance and Incwala ceremonies, attracting visitors interested in the traditions of Swazi Culture. It was a strategic decision therefore to locate Yebo in Ezulwini. The art gallery would (i) profit from tourists staying in the area or passing through, (ii) be able to engage in partnerships with the hospitality and crafts industry in the region and (iii) benefit from a diverse and potentially open-minded audience. The valley's aforementioned international allure could, moreover, allow the gallery to improve Swaziland's art credentials abroad. Although Yebo art gallery is at bottom a commercial project, its mandate is very much in line with that of public institutions involved in the arts. At the heart of its mission lies the desire to grow and promote contemporary art in Swaziland, a sector which has received little or no attention from local actors. Business, government and NGOs favour the crafts industry, which produces familiar and therefore readily saleable objects. Yebo, on the other hand, was born of a desire to separate art from crafts by providing it with the requisite means of presentation. As the first fully operative contemporary art gallery in Swaziland, Yebo had to create a market from scratch. That meant it had to educate not only the public but the artists themselves. Various initiatives were launched, including (but not limited to) a residency program, art workshops and a small but comprehensive reference library. The artists involved in these programs have full access to Yebo's facilities and expertise. They are perpetually coached on topics ranging from technique and choice of subject matter to the commercial aspects of art production. Yebo art gallery is acutely aware of the responsibility it carries as a pioneer in Swaziland's nascent art sector. To the extent that art can be regarded as a public good, a gallery fulfils a public function. This holds true especially if, in a given region, access to contemporary art is restricted. In this respect Yebo assumes the role of a museum. It documents, catalogues and displays the output of some of Swaziland's most promising artists. It also curates themed exhibitions which appeal to a wide audience. In short, Yebo fulfils a beacon role: it leads by example, hoping to motivate potential actors and make Swazi art into a success story.

Peter Armstrong is a Swazi with vast experience in the art world. He studied fine art in South Africa and the UK, after which he worked for six years at Mantenga Craft running the screen-printing department. In 1985 he and Aleta set up a successful screen-printing and design company, Armstrong Artworks, which employed over 30 people. Pete is also a sculptor and has created numerous commissioned pieces. He worked for several years as an art teacher at the Waterford Kamhlaba international school. Aleta Armstrong was born in Finland, grew up in Tanzania, Swaziland, Botswana and Denmark and moved to Swaziland with her family in 1984. She created a successful range of designs under the name African Fantasy and set up two unique and successful shops in Swaziland in 1990. She also worked for four years as a journalist with local and South African media houses. In 2000 she and Pete set up Guava Art College, a free art school that assisted unemployed Swazis in art training and marketing. Aleta was project manager of Indlu Finlandia Design and Training centre for 3 years. She then worked as a freelance consultant and designer. Dane Armstrong was born and raised in Swaziland, returning home in 2009 after having studied and worked abroad for eight years, completing two degrees in business and economics in Finland and Holland. He works on the general operations and design of Yebo as well as the marketing and communications aspects, such as the website and other media. He is a keen artist, focusing on photography and mixed media, and will be working as the facilitator of the ArtReach program that Yebo will be initiating in 2012.

Aims and method of this Report

This report is the first of what is to become an annual review of (i) Yebo's activities and (ii) the industry in which is operates. The report first and foremost serves as a document of Yebo's development. However, as Yebo occupies a unique position in the industry's landscape, it inevitably touches on and explores issues that are relevant to all actors operating in the Swazi art industry. Moreover, it is Yebo's explicit goal to improve and develop the arts and the way in which it is managed. It is impossible therefore to separate the two aims of this report. As it is Yebo's objective to grow and promote contemporary art in Swaziland, it is important to measure the extent to which this is actually achieved. The writers, in conjunction with Yebo's directors, have decided that the most adequate way to obtain this information is through interviews and questionnaires. In an effort to identify the strengths and weaknesses of Yebo's approach to art development, feedback was solicited from artists that regularly exhibit work at the gallery as well as other actors in the industry (namely Alliance Franaise,

Swaziland National Council of Arts & Culture, UNESCO, U.S. Embassy, Arterial Network, Limkokwing University). The results of these questionnaires can be found in the sections on Artists and Local actors at the end of the report. Finally, it must be noted that the views and opinions put forward in this report cannot be separated from the views of Yebo's directors. As such, this review does not strive to present a cross section of the Swazi art industry. Rather the writers together with Yebo's directors have identified a number of points that, they think, merit the attention of those interested in developing the Swazi art sector. There is of course much more to be said about problems of infrastructure and arts management as they present themselves to actors on a daily basis. Also when it comes to suggestions about improvements this report is far from comprehensive. However, the method of sourcing information from local artists and actors through interviews and questionnaires has proved fruitful. Those interested in the opinions of local actors are encouraged to consult the sections on Artists and Local Actors at the end of the report.

Facilities and Services at Yebo Art Gallery

It has become clear to Yebo's directors that many of the up-and-coming artists are lacking in skills. The government does not have the necessary funds to subsidise skills training, which means the responsibility to initiate, develop and finance skills programs falls to private enterprises. The facilities set up by Yebo have, however, been underused. NGOs and other stakeholders have neglected to invest in art education through Yebo and so provide a much needed impulse into the industry. To give but one example, there are no local artisans capable of designing and screen-printing cloth; all screen-printed cloth is imported from neighbouring countries. It would be easy to fill this gap as training facilities are readily available. There is also a big gap in the handicraft sector in terms of Swazi designers. Training should be offered to local artisans who show talent rather than import designs from abroad. Yebo has expertise in identifying talent and assisting with grass roots training projects but, again, the availability of this service has been overlooked by local actors. The following is an overview of the facilities and services made available by Yebo art gallery over the past ten months. A large screen-printing room. Screen-printing is taught by qualified artist and teacher Peter Armstrong. All screen-printing techniques are covered. Tailor-made courses are available as well. An etching press which is used by artists. A pottery space and pottery lessons are available, covering a variety of pottery techniques. This service has turned out to be popular with children and adults alike.

Lessons are taught by Peter Armstrong. Drawing lessons and model painting taught by Aleta Armstrong. Mosaic classes, teaching groups and individuals how to effectively and cheaply mosaic large spaces or small items using broken tiles and other recycled materials. Taught by Dane Armstrong. Two large exhibition rooms: one for themed exhibitions, the other for the permanent collection. The rooms are exceptionally rented out to individual artists for solo shows or collaborative projects. An art reference library is available for artists to use for inspiration and research. This facility has been an important resource for many Swazi artists. It also fills a gap in public service provision as most libraries in Swaziland hold a limited number of art books. An art shop carrying general art materials and tools, a selection of locally produced handicrafts as well as products made and designed by Yebo, including screen-printed cloth, T-shirts and ceramics. The Yebo art shop also supplies organisations and schools with bulk orders and specials discounts are given to local artists. A website which displays and catalogues the gallery's activities. The website makes it possible to purchase art works online and provides detailed information about exhibiting artists, upcoming events and news items. Yebo has also teamed up with FedEx who ship work for clients, door to door. The website will eventually operate as a portal for the arts in Swaziland, with information about artists, photos, catalogues, events and relevant reports.

Social Responsibility
In February Yebo Art Gallery initiated a social responsibility program (SRP) meant to promote art production through mentorship and training. The program included free training and use of Yebo facilities for six Swazi artists. The main idea was to create an environment conducive to artistic creation. It was therefore decided to keep the program open-ended rather than give it a definite structure. Artists worked on projects independently but were encouraged to experiment with materials and try new ideas. Tools of all kinds were available for use and access to the workspace was granted freely. Because the SRP took place on the Yebo premises, artists could easily engage each other in discussion. They also had the opportunity to meet customers and receive commissioned work as a result. This project worked successfully for 5 months.

Unfortunately the program then began to implode. Artists' incapacity to pay for transport made it impossible for them to make a regular appearance. Moreover, the financial crisis in Swaziland started to escalate and affect the arts. The directors also detected a general sense of defeatism when sales did not take off immediately; artists did not seem to understand how much ground work needed to be covered and that instant success is rare. The reason for the failure of the program is therefore twofold. Lack of funds on the one hand; and an idealised understanding of what it is to be an artist on the other. Lack of money ultimately affects creativity as well. For example, it is possible that an artist is unable to carry through a project because he or she cannot afford the required materials. To counteract this Yebo has sometimes stepped in to pay for the work in advance. In such cases the work was thus commissioned by the gallery and subsequently put on display. This is a service exceptionally made available to artists who are known to Yebo's directors. Yebo also assists up and coming artists with advice on pricing and marketing as well as the administrative aspects of their profession, including pricing and contract mechanisms. Yebo's directors want artists to understand the value of their work so they will not be short-changed. Some artists have previously sold work cheaply to galleries and were not in charge of the final purchasing price. At Yebo artists decide on the price themselves. Besides the SRP Yebo Art Gallery allocates space to up and coming artists in their monthly art shows in an effort to reduce existing barriers to entry into the Swazi art market. This provides up-and-coming artists with an outlet and opportunity to reach a wide audience. Naturally, artists are not expected to pay upfront fees to exhibit their work. In case something sells, a commission of 32 percent is withheld on the purchasing price.

Overview of Exhibitions
Yebo Art Gallery has hosted seven exhibitions until now.

1. 26 February 2 April:

The Year of the Rabbit

For its first show Yebo wanted to involve as many artists, mediums and themes as possible in order to hit the ground running. The theme Year of the Rabbit was chosen because the exhibition coincided with the commencement of the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, which was also, coincidentally, Yebos logo. The show featured Paintings, Sculptures, Drawings, Pottery & Photographs by the following local artists:

2. 9 April 7 May:

main room: Side room:

I believe... Interior decorating by Sean & Philippa Knight

The theme I Believe was chosen to inspire artists to come up with reflective pieces based on ideas that are inherently strong within them. These took the form of portraits, religious paintings, abstract expressionism, and much more. 3. 14 May 19 June: Creative Freedom of Expression! - Organised in collaboration with the Bushfire Festival and Swaziland Design Week The theme of Yebo's third exhibition was situated at the intersection between arts and politics. It was intended to get people to think about the importance of freedom of expression to artists but also to the nation as a whole. On a more general level, participating artists were encouraged to express themselves more freely and explore new ideas, themes and materials. As part of the collaboration with House on Fire, Yebo participated at the Handcraft Fashion Show at Bushfire and had its own stall during the festival.

4. 25 June 23 July: Indzaba Yetfu Our Story - in collaboration with PEPFAR For this exhibition Yebo teamed up with the U.S. Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (one of the biggest NGOs in the world) to exhibit the work of 22 local artists. PEPFAR/Swaziland works with more than 30 partner organisations across the Kingdom to prevent new infections, mitigate the effect of the epidemic, and provide care and treatment for those infected with HIV/AIDS. The goal of the Indzaba Yetfu show was to explore new ways to increase HIV/AIDS awareness in Swaziland. Partner organisations met with local artists and inspired them to contribute in the fight against AIDS. The result was an impressive body of work which included painting, pottery, drawing, sewing, sculpture, photography and glasswork. Each piece presented the artists unique vision of how HIV/AIDS is affecting the country and the work that needs to be done to improve the situation. It was an emotional exhibition that moved and upset many. 5. 30 July 28 August: Affordable Art - interim exhibition

The purpose of this exhibition was to get a wider audience to purchase art. Artists, hobbyists and crafters alike were invited to contribute work. Participation was not restricted by a theme or a medium. Rather the exhibition was structured around a price limit. As such it was an ideal opportunity for those who enjoy being creative but are not necessarily professional artists to gain exposure, perhaps for the first time. This show, it turned out, was the least popular and generated the least sales. 6. 3 September 17 September: Aster AF-RU-KA - solo exhibition

This exhibition held a series of colourful embroideries, which explored Swazi culture through the lens of astromythology. The pieces were set against the backdrop of the Swazi nature calendar and were designed by local artist Sue Dowding. Three rural Swazi women Phindile Gwebu, Ellen Dlamini and Bonsile Mdzebele executed the work. The series celebrated the knowledge accreted over the centuries by ancient African peoples. Sue Dowding is also involved in a wider cultural conservation project that aims to revive interest in African culture, star lore and mythology. The majority of the work was sold, as it was a very popular exhibition. 7. 22 September 22 October: Swaziland Now!

The last exhibition in the original Yebo space explored themes of identity, politics and economics from a local perspective. Yebo wanted to provide a platform for artists to say what they think about Swaziland's present situation, which could but did not have to be politically accented. The overall goal of the exhibition was therefore to capture the spirit of the times, to show what Swaziland is about today and how it might change in the future. The show was so popular that Yebo's directors have decided to make it into an annual event.

Exhibitions Review
The overall turnout for the shows has been good. Yebo attracts visitors from all walks of life, some of whom have never set foot in a gallery before. This is in part due to the themes, which have relevance beyond the immediate art community. Yebo's location in the centre of Ezulwini is also conducive to high visitor numbers. Ezulwini is a popular tourist destination and many people pass through it. Finally, Yebo owes many of its visitors to the quality of past shows. The gallery has quickly built a name for itself by the variety and number of exhibitions it has hosted. Sales have been steady but lagging for the more politically engaged shows. The same can be said of the avant-garde art pieces: they attract much attention but are rarely purchased. Some artists work has maintained a certain consistency of sales; others have sold nothing. A poor sales record does not keep an artist from exhibiting his work. The sole criterion here is quality. Yebo does, however, inform artists about patterns of sales. There are themes, colours and styles that are more likely to generate sales than others. Artists can use this information to their advantage should they wish to do so. In February of this year Yebo's directors had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Franscesco Ippolito, a Danish curator hired to set up a Copenhagen exhibition about Swazi and Zimbabwean art. Apparently the Danish Trade Union Council for International Development Co-operation (LO-FTF) with the support of various development agencies (DANIDA and DCCD) organise this event annually, each time exhibiting art works from an economically less developed region of choice. Previous exhibitions had showed work from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Nicaragua, Guatemala and the Philippines. Mr Ippolito visited Yebo, saw various artists work and selected three South African artists to exhibit at the Copenhagen show. These are excellent artists who are based in Swaziland but Yebo felt strongly that the selection ignored artists of Swazi birth and that the Copenhagen exhibition could not therefore reflect the diversity inherent in the Swazi art scene. Repeated attempts on Yebo's part to retrieve information about the exhibition in Denmark have proved fruitless. One problem Yebo has encountered is a lack of professionalism on the part of some of the Swazi print and television media. Most of the exhibitions have received media coverage but more often than not their content was misrepresented. It has also occurred that Yebo provided media with specific information which was subsequently misreported. Clearly what is at issue here is a lack of understanding of contemporary art. Journalists, like most ordinary people, do not have the conceptual tools to analyse a work of art. The consequent lack of interest translates into sloppy reporting. It must be noted, however, that one journalist in particular, Howard Mavuso from The Observer, has made great effort to attend every show, asking questions and showing a general interest in Yebo's activities.

Yebo hopes that media houses will one day allocate as much space and resources to covering art, theatre and literature as they do to covering local and international celebrities.

Yebo Art Gallery has attracted artists from Swaziland, South Africa and Mozambique, all of whom have taken part in exhibitions hosted by Yebo. To date approximately fifty artists have exhibited at Yebo shows. The level of experience of individual artists varies considerably and Yebo displays work by formally qualified artists as well as those who are self-taught. Such diversity makes for an interesting collection of work on display during the exhibitions. Yebo has recently begun to collect the biographies of its most prominent artists, those who produce work consistently and exhibit on a regular basis. The biographies will be uploaded to the website in due time. The purpose of the biographies is to situate the artist's work, to reveal, where possible, the connections between the artist's life and creative issue. By providing context in this way, Yebo promotes artists and makes the art it exhibits more accessible. It also responds to a demand from buyers to have more information about the art they purchase. With regard to consistency, creativity and quality of work, much could obviously be improved. Many of the exhibiting artists are not familiar with contemporary art and therefore lack the necessary reference points. The library by itself is not a sufficient resource. Nevertheless, Yebo's directors are convinced the Swazi art scene must develop organically and should not be forced in any particular direction (the direction of European contemporary art, say). On the other hand, to acquaint local artists with the work of other African artists seems a worthwhile pursuit. In this context Yebo's artists were lucky to benefit from a meeting with Maurice Mbiyake organised by Alliance Franaise. Yebo does not, however, have the finances to organise such events by itself. Of course it would be of great benefit to the Swazi art sector if local artists could go on regular trips to South Africa to promote crossborder cooperation.


Artist Questionnaire
What follows is a questionnaire completed by four artists who exhibit regularly at the Yebo gallery. Their answers are reproduced integrally. The questionnaire was collected in October of 2011. Key: CD VS RB NN Celimpilo Dlamini, Male, Swazi Vumelani Sibeko, Male, Swazi/South African Ray Berman, Male, South African, Swazi resident Nonhlanhla 'Sunshine' Nxumalo, Female, Swazi 1. How many years have you been practicing as an artist? CD VS RB NN I have been painting since I left high school in 2001 but I think I have been doing it seriously for about a year. Six years. Most of my life, about 60 year. I have been practicing as an artist since 2006. 2. Have you had any formal art training? If so, where? CD VS RB NN Im not sure if IGCSE counts as formal training, but I did that at Waterford Kamhlaba. Yes I did at Vaal University of technology. Yes, graphic arts diploma at Witwatersrand Technicon College; Academy of La Grand Chaumiere in Paris; Arts Academy Salzburg; Pratt Institute New York. I have not studied at school. I can say painting is a gift from God because it is not anyone who can do it. We're all gifted in different ways. I only befriended an artist who taught me how to mix colours and paint. Within three months of practicing I could paint something nice which people would love and buy. Lucky Mlotsa is the artist who helped me out and I realised my talent. 3. If any, what's your signature style and why have you chosen that particular style? CD I like to use bold, visible strokes and vivid colors because I think it makes my pictures lively and can contribute to the overall feel of a composition. Also I find that it gives me more freedom to interpret a subject however I wish, rather that trying to replicate it on a canvas.


My signature style is the use of rags or clothes on canvass and the use of corrugated Iron as a surface to paint on or sticking clothes on. I try not to influence the shape of the metal but work with it. I chose this style because it best represents me and what I am about. I come from a poor background so I found my self surrounded by squatter camps and we were all living on the edge of life. I started to see these images on the peoples houses and came to a point where I was sure this represents me. Has changed quite a lot over the years, at the moment working in an abstract expressionist manner, following my inner vision (voices of my ancestors). Mostly, I do landscapes, Swazi landscapes. I am always inspired by the environment, culture and lifestyles. Most of my paintings have got people because wherever I go there are people. 4. Where have you exhibited?



At Yebo I took a landscape to Indingilizi in 2010, but Im not sure if anyone actually saw it. I took the same picture to Yebo later along with a few others and I like to say that that was the first time I exhibited. In 2011: IDC (Industrial Development Corporation); The Drill Hall: Open studio; Documentary (Jhb. Trolley Workers) Tsetse African Art Gallery in Belgium; Kospotong Restaurant, Newtown, Jhb.; Arts alive, Alternative space (program), Title: Idubukele; Currently working on a show called (JHB Trolley workers) for JAG (Johannesburg Art Gallery), 14 February 2012. Various group shows in Swaziland in earlier years. Solo show Sydney Australia 2008. Solo show Guava Gallery Swaziland 2009. Group shows Yebo Gallery 2011. So far I have only exhibited in Swaziland. I always attend exhibitions, especially when I have work ready at the time of that particular exhibition. I have been to exhibitions at House on Fire, Indingilizi Art Gallery (1st exhibition), Royal Swazi Sun Hotel, Guava Gallery, Cafe Lingo (Xerox) and Yebo Art Gallery. 5. What role does Yebo Art Gallery play in your life, now?




As much as I think I have always wanted to pursue art as a career, I have never felt as confident in that possibility as I have since Yebo opened. The regular shows, exposure through the net and the community of artists that are open to sharing ideas, advice and even encouragement is, I think, exactly what has been missing in Swaziland. Yebo is giving me a chance to show my work in Swaziland and I get to network with artist from all over not just Swaziland. A great opportunity to show my work and meet other artists. A source of


encouragement and support for all of us artists. NN Yebo has been a yebo, positive to every artist, I guess. Really, this is where I've felt acknowledged as an artist. I am pleased to say I have grown a little bit, as an artist, through Yebo There [at Yebo] I would attend meetings with different kinds of artists, share some ideas and knowledge. That really broadened my mind as an artist. I sold [my artworks] on two exhibitions. Selling is important to me because the work has to move on. 6. What difficulties do you face as an artist working or exhibiting in Swaziland, if any? CD I think the greatest challenge has been resolved with the opening of Yebo The lack of opportunities to exhibit ones work has been the major problem until now. Other difficulties, like the rather high price of quality art materials and the fact that it is not really possible to live on ones art alone in Swaziland things like that, I think are to be taken as part of the choice one makes when deciding to venture into the arts. Visual Arts are not respected in Swaziland and even in South Africa. The usual: difficulty of earning enough to continue working in my given fields. Here we go. Art is my passion. I like being creative. There is nothing I love doing more than paint. As it is my job as well it should put food on my table and pay my bills. I have not been to these heights with my art. I am one of those artists who do not have money. I support my skill as it's something I've got to do everyday. It is indeed difficult to be an artists in Swaziland, it's like we are invisible to the majority population. In exhibitions it is always the same old faces from past exhibitions. It's like artists who are recognized are musicians not the ones of my league. There's nothing special that's being done for us. I think we should be able to have exhibitions, where everyone can attend, even His Majesty the King [Mswati III of Swaziland] should be there to support us, get to know how much talent there is in our country. But I am happy because I was able to support my baby [through selling my art works] from 2006 till this day. 7. What type of support do you receive from the Swazi government? If none, what support can the government offer to artists? CD None (that I am aware of). I have come to expect that the government is not likely to put art high on its priority list, despite all the talk that is going around. I have also noticed that the people that are doing all the talking dont seem to have a genuine interest in the advancement of art in the country, or even an acceptable level of knowledge on the subject. The slow progress (if any) in the copyright bill is evidence enough that no one is really paying attention to the arts. But the bottom line is that they are paid to occupy those offices. The least I expect is for them to listen to and


assist the people that come to them with ideas, because none seem to be coming from their side. I have never thought government should be an investor in the industry, but rather a facilitator. Just as they provide factories and tax holidays to investors who spend their monies outside the country anyway and leave their employees not much better off, they should facilitate the easy operation of establishments that actually empower the Swazi people. VS RB NN Artists need spaces to work from; we need support from the government in funding our programmers and even attending our exhibitions. None. General lack of interest and understanding of the vast human resources inherent in Swaziland's artists. I have not yet received any support from our government. It's only the Prime Minister [Dr. Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini, of Swaziland] who purchased one of my artworks. It was a gift for the president of Malawi. May I mention that I was honored? It felt good for so many reasons. I think the government should assist artists by introducing art at grassroots. Art should be introduced in schools, especially public ones where there are disadvantaged people. That means there should also be institutions where one can study art. I'm sure, if I learnt art at school, I would be at a higher level by now. I attended a school where art was never a subject. I would also be recognized because everyone would be aware that there is ART. Yeah, I think our government should assist by introducing art to schools and have the same institutions. 8. What can be done to improve contemporary art in Swaziland? CD I am really not sure. I think the idea of a formal post-high-school-course is not even worth dreaming about at this point, but I think I learnt a lot from my high school days, so maybe introducing art in public schools could work, if teachers can be found. It is a pity that Yebo has to relocate to smaller premises as I have heard that will affect the classes that they have been offering. I think such classes, offered anywhere, by professionals, are the easiest and most practical way to improve the quality of work that is being produced. Inviting more artists from outside and collaborating with Swazi Artists and encourage more of waste art or mixed medium. Beginning with art education in schools (almost non-existent), greater support of artists by government purchasing local work for display in Embassies, offices etc., creation of scholarships for young gifted artists to study. The strategy that Yebo has is the way to go. It's just that it has to spread to other parts of the country. It seems, like art exhibitions happen mostly between Mbabane and Manzini. It is very right to have meetings, as artists, and exhibitions. That's when I feel



like I am growing and motivated. We should learn to appreciate and complement one another as artists. There should be more galleries in our country. At the moment we have four, which I know of. Manzini [Swaziland] is a big city, busiest as well, but there's no gallery or art material shop. When somebody is from Piggs Peak [Town in Swaziland] or Nhlangano [Town in Swaziland] they have to travel to Mbabane [Swaziland's capital city] or Ezulwini [Town in Swaziland], to buy art material. It is very difficult in Swaziland. Now that the economy has collapsed, it is even worse. 9. What should Yebo focus on in the next year? CD I think they should keep doing what they have been doing. The monthly shows, in particular, are a good idea in my opinion. Dane [Armstrong] (Yebo Art Gallery codirector) was telling me some time ago about a documentary he watched about an American artist that interested him. I have seen a few such shows, myself, and I think screenings of such (if possible) or even talks along those lines could help open locals eyes and minds to what is going on in the wider art community. Not sure there, for now. Keep on trucking! Find broader markets, hammer all donor organizations and government departments to be aware and support local artists. I don't really know because they have done a lot and given a chance to every artist. People don't have money. I, for one, would love to take art lessons, which Yebo provides, but I don't have the money required. We need more exhibitions with themes that are motivational. Yebo should also allow us to exhibit our paintings with them for a longer time. A painting can be sold two years after being painted. We need a place where we can put up our paintings for as long as possible. If I take a painting home, who is going to see it? It needs to be at the gallery.


Local Actors
Yebo Art Gallery believes that local actors (especially the Swazi government) should focus on developing the art sector rather than organise national arts awards like the annual Tihlabani Awards. As yet the output of the industry as a whole is too small to have highly mediatised award runs. It is clear that a properly functioning art market would benefit artists more than any award show could. It is therefore advisable to relocate funding to training and generating market opportunities. As of May Swaziland counts a new educational institution, Limkokwing University, which offers various arts-related courses to students. Yebo has visited the university and staff connected with the art department have attended Yebo's exhibitions. Students are seen

purchasing art materials from the Yebo shop. It will be exciting to see the effect the new university will have on the local art scene when students graduate. Yebo hopes graduates will get involved in collaborative projects. Lastly, government schools do not teach art, which greatly undermines public interest in the arts. A curriculum should thus be introduced. Yebo did have meetings with various departments on this subject but has been given little feedback. It is unclear when the government are planning to introduce art into public schools. Teachers will need training before they start giving art lessons and hopefully Yebo will be asked to assist in this. What is currently of great concern is the financial crisis in Swaziland. Students and teachers are protesting as allowances, salaries and scholarships are cut. This will have a serious impact on the growth of the art sector.

Organisations Questionnaire
What follows is a questionnaire completed by six actors in the Swazi art industry. The answers of the respondents are reproduced integrally. The questionnaire was collected in October of 2011. Key: AF SNCAC UNESCO Laurence Amigues, director of Alliance Franaise du Swaziland Stanley Dlamini, CEO at Swaziland National Council of Arts & Culture Phumzile Hlophe, Culture & Information Program Officer at Swaziland National Commission for UNESCO US Molly Sanchez Crowe, Public Affairs Officer at U.S. Embassy Arterial Maswati Dludlu, chairman of Arterial Network Swaziland Limkokwing Mr Abel Parks Toteng, lecturer at Limkokwing University 1. Briefly, what measures are being taken and implemented by your organization towards improving the contemporary art scene in Swaziland? AF SNCAC We have invited interesting artist from other countries. Any time we do host an artist, we try to give the opportunity to local artists to meet our guest. Capacitating artists with innovative skills to compete in the market. Strengthening associations, to meet needs of their membership. Education and development, in art, as well as advocating for legislations to protect the creative industries. Culture, which can't be divorced with arts, is one of the disciplines of UNESCO. Therefore UNESCO supports arts both technically and financially.


In the case of the art scene in Swaziland, nothing has been done by the national commission. US In partnership with Yebo the U.S. Embassy through PEPFAR supported an exhibition to tell the story of the fight against HIV/AIDS in Swaziland. Through the Public Affairs Section, the U.S. Embassy worked closely with the Swaziland National Council of Arts and Culture to host an Arts Management trainer to support the business side of the arts. We are open to other ideas and welcome suggestions from Yebo and others. Arterial We are organizing the arts sector to speak with one strong voice in positioning the creative sector properly in Swaziland.

Limkokwing We have a module that we teach students in our institution which is called Creative and Innovation Studies. This subject prepares them to be able to come up with highly creative and original ideas. We also encourage them to always carry out research online so to be on par with what is happening in other parts of the world more especially in the area of contemporary Art and Design. 2. In your opinion, what is the current situation of the arts sector in Swaziland? AF I am may be not the better person to answer this question: I have just been here for 3 years now. But in 3 years' time I already noticed some interesting improvement, even though I think the local fine art scene is still very isolated. We are still at development stages. There are glimpses of a global demand for Swazi art but government is not prioritizing our potential exportable product. There are less funding opportunities for development of this industry. There is also a gap in diversity of products in the market. People [Artist/Artisans] tend to do [produce] the same things [products]. I think fine arts scene in Swaziland is still at its grassroots level. There are a lot of artists but they are not properly organized. Most of them work independently. Also, there is no clear budget for this category from the relevant ministry thus it will take time for it to develop. Our impression is that the fine arts scene is yet to be fully developed. It seems that it is struggling to find a market within the country. However, there are talented artists here that could benefit from more support and improved marketing. Because the arts are not incorporated into Swazi schools, children are not exposed to art at an early age and do not learn to express themselves creatively




through the arts. This may be one limiting factor in terms of the Swazi fine arts scene. Arterial There is a lot of work being done at all levels but the efforts are not coordinated properly at national level for networking purposes. There is too much individualism.

Limkokwing I do not see anything much happening in the art scene, but Yebo gallery is doing a good job. The growth of arts need the involvement of all stakeholders. The government need to realise that artists can also play a part in building the economy of the country. 3. Do you think artists in Swaziland are free to express themselves? AF I saw some really controversial pieces at Yebo Gallery for example. People could have been arrested for less than that in other countries. I think artists are free, but of course, there must be a lot of self-censorship. Yes. Artists are very much free to express themselves. However, the policy is there to safeguard people from trespassing into other people's rights. The policy also levels the ground for creativity. They are free to express themselves because they have a ministry which they fall under and they also have an association known as Swaziland Arterial Network where they network as artists. They also produce a monthly newsletter known as 'Liyenaba Arts News' where they communicate whatever they feel like, to the members and the nation at large. The Swazi Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, and it is the responsibility of all Swazi citizens to hold the government accountable for upholding the rights contained in the constitution. Each year, the U.S. Department of State issues a Human Rights Report on Swaziland, as it does for countries around the world. In the 2010 report, it was noted that there were no government restrictions on cultural events. We welcome input from the arts community if artists have experienced government restriction on cultural events. The text of the 2010 report can be found on our Embassy website: Arterial Yes, they are free because I have never heard that an artist has been accused for expressing himself/herself creatively. Though I know there is a lot of selfcensorship, but that is a cultural problem that as a Swazi you dont just speak anyhow.




4. In the year ahead, what is the role of the artist in our society? AF SNCAC Major! Essential! We want to mainstream arts and culture in [public] school's curriculum. We want to enact legislations to protect artists' works of art (Intellectual Property Rights Law). We want to create our own audiences for our products and create a global demand for our products. If the artists' association can be reinforced, they can contribute immensely to sustainable development through education by providing the practical experience. Artists can also boost the economy through tourism where tourists can flock to the country to see the exhibits as well as buy the products. This is question that is better posed to the artists of Swaziland. What I can say is that in the United States, artists often use their art to comment on social issues, current events, etc. Art can be a powerful tool. To educate, inform, entertain, and shape the future destiny of the country, whilst earning a living.




Limkokwing The world is facing financial rise so I think Swazi artist must be pro-active and organise themselves. This will enable them to come up with artworks which address current issues. The role played by artists would be to document, educate as well as contribute in developing the economy. 5. What role should our government play in the arts sector? AF A role of support, giving the artist places for exhibition, but also places to train themselves and to produce. And a government has to organize the adequate legislation to support and protect artists. Create an enabling environment for arts development, thus enacting Intellectual Property Rights Laws. Create an Arts and Culture Fund, just like the Youth Fund. Support and establish Arts academies. Increase budget for SNCAC. Empower people not exploitation, especially rural women and children, in art. Provide a budget. This is a question that is best determined by the people and the government of Swaziland. To create an enabling environment for artists to develop to their fullest potential and make sure they contribute to the economy.


UNESCO US Arterial

Limkokwing Firstly the government need trained artist to act as advisors. Artists need to form organisations which can then advice the government. Artists need to stand up for their own rights. A country as small as Swaziland needs to explore the outside market, which can consume most of the artworks produced here. The government can play a vital role in marketing locally produced artworks, which can then generate income for both the country and artists themselves. 6. Have you been to Yebo Art Gallery? If not, why? If yes, what exhibition(s) did you see? What did you think of them? AF SNCAC Of course! Yes. Several times. Exhibitions by different artists. The exhibitions are good save for systematic segmentation of audiences as well as the previous location. In a country where there is no gallery, Yebo provides the platform. It is slowly but surely getting popular. No. I visited several shows, including the Creative Freedom of Expression, Indzaba Yetfu and Swaziland Now! shows. I thought they were each thoughtprovoking and definitely worth visiting to get a different perspective on Swaziland. Yes, I have been to the show on HIV and AIDS and I am happy with the work done by Yebo.



Limkokwing Yes, I have been to Yebo several times. The quality of artworks were of a very high standard, just that artists need to think outside the box [more] most of the time. 7. Do you think Yebo Art Gallery is doing something new and relevant? AF SNCAC Definitely yes. The fact to bring artists to work together, for example. Yes. It's the only gallery (national) which provides yearly seasonal exhibitions. It is promoting the development, economy and appreciation of art in the country. It is providing a "new" profession in art, in the land/country. It provides a tourists' consumption alternative. By going through its website, I think its doing interesting things. I do. Yebo is offering a space for a range of artists to show their work and to express themselves through their art. Freedom of expression is a critical part of any democracy so finding spaces for free expression is essential.



Yebo is doing something new and relevant because her programme is diverse. They train and provide space for artists to showcase their works.

Limkokwing Yes I think Yebo is doing the right thing, but the government need to also assist both artists and this kind of galleries so that they can be able to market Swaziland art and crafts to other parts of the world. It is very important that the gallery should always liaise with universities such as Limkokwing which will be producing the future generation of artists and designers. 8. What should Yebo Art Gallery focus on in the next year? AF SNCAC Not too sure. I like its training approach, since it empowers people and fills the academies gap. I will appreciate more cultural art displays, like the Cultural Calendar exhibitions [exhibited at Yebo Art Gallery, Titled: Aster Afruka, by artist Sue]. It should market itself vigorously through other media channels so that people get to know it. Not all people have access to the internet. I would like to see Yebo support artistic development of young people. I know from speaking with Aleta [Armstrong] that this is something that Yebo is interested in. I look forward to seeing how Yebo continues to develop. A marketing drive at international level and also collaborate with arts associations to make the place more lively and attractive to appeal to all people.



Limkokwing In addition to exhibitions, Yebo should try to bring artists, designers, art educators, etc. together for discussions and workshops as this can help them map a way forward on how the sector an be improved.

Yebo Art Gallery has faced and is facing numerous challenges. Some of them relate to the general difficulties of doing business in Swaziland. These issues are continuously raised and reported by business organisations. The critical socio-economic crisis in Swaziland adds to the difficulties Yebo and artists face. Some of these are noted in the artists' interviews. Yebo will persist, despite the numerous challenges, in helping and developing the art sector in Swaziland, working together with any organisation that shares its vision.


Yebo has set up and kept afloat Swaziland's first contemporary art gallery. The benefits this has brought to the community are impossible to quantify. If, however, the art sector serves as an indicator of a country's level of development, Yebo has single-handedly lifted Swaziland to a higher plane. Over the past ten months Yebo has organised seven different and unique exhibitions successfully and without precedent. The exhibitions were well-attended and commercially viable. As such Yebo has proved that the art sector provides workable opportunities and that the art profession does not necessarily commit one to destitution. Yebo has laid a foundation for art education and provided facilities for beginning (as well as experienced) artists to exploit. It has, moreover, provided many of these facilities free of charge. The shop and reference library are now the starting point of many an artist's journey while the Armstrong's expertise in drawing, painting, screen-printing, pottery and ceramics supplies the technical reference point Swazi artists so badly need. With the residency program Yebo has charted new territory in art education. Yebo's focus on long rather than short-term skills development is sure to benefit not only the artists but the community as a whole. Yebo has also actively documented artists' work. Prior to this, work was sold and no records existed of what had been created. The website features all exhibitions and works online and one can easily browse past events. It also features the artists' biographies, which is a great tool for marketing skills and increasing artists' exposure. Yebo intends to write or commission a report about its activities and the Swazi art sector in general every year. To date no attempt at documenting the progress of Swazi art has been made. Yebo has also brought together the art community in Swaziland. Professional and up-andcoming artists from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and ages have worked together. Artists from neighbouring countries have also visited or exhibited, thus widening the network. The Yebo project is still in an early stage but a foundation has been laid for its further development.


Current Situation and Way Forward

Yebo Art Gallery relocated to Guava Gallery in Mantenga area, Ezulwini at the beginning of November 2011. This was due to the high noise levels from its neighbour which disturbed customers, artists and expansion plans. Also a construction site at the top of the road and lack of signage made it difficult for visitors to locate Yebo. Yebo is now split in three parts. The shop and art gallery is located in one large 90m2 room at Guava Gallery. Guava Gallery is a well established jewellery shop which carries a locally designed and fabricated jewellery range. The gallery boasts a beautifully situated restaurant/caf with a view over Mlilwane nature reserve. Yebo continues to host art shows and sell art supplies through its shop. The shop also sells small gifts designed and made by local artisans, along with the Yebo range of cloth, ceramics etc. Aleta Armstrong will manage this area. The screen-printing/sculpture/pottery/etching/press department has relocated to a nearby factory space and is currently being set up. Peter Armstrong will manage this area. The artists workspace has been discontinued for the time being, though funding will be sought to develop this again in the near future. Artists Yebo previously supported through the SRP continue to exhibit but now work from home. The art library is located at the gallery veranda. Yebo Art Gallery continues with themed shows until the end of January. By the end of the year a six-month exhibition calendar will be finalised. The gallery will extend its outdoor space and build an artists' veranda where artists are welcome to partake of a hot beverage, meet fellow artists, read and discuss their work. The workshop area will resume classes and training from December and will continue designing and producing cloth and ceramics for the Yebo shop. Yebo is currently working on a project outline and proposal to begin an Art & Creativity Outreach Program for youth groups in Swaziland for the coming year. By providing a platform for expression and learning through creativity and the arts, the project aims to address the growing issues faced by youth in Swaziland, and to initiate a sustained, pragmatic and simple way of introducing various concepts and methods of creativity and artistic mediums. Fifty percent of the Swazi population is under the age of 24. High unemployment, alarming AIDS statistics, a financial crisis and social unrest are but a few of the disquieting problems Swaziland faces. The youth need to be heard and one of the best mediums for this is through the arts. For the majority it will be a creative outlet, for the few who show potential to become artists Yebo will assist them in this endeavour. Yebo also feels it is important to take the exhibitions themselves from the cities to neglected urban and rural areas. Most people do not have money for transport to visit an art gallery. So

art galleries should go to them instead so that they are inspired and educated about the arts. This should not only be a resource available in select urban environments. Project proposals are currently being written and there has been a positive response so far from many organisations to these initiatives. In the new year Yebo will organise quarterly get-togethers for local artists. Other artists from neighbouring countries will be invited to do talks and share ideas. Art-related movie nights will also be organised. .. Yebo welcomes any feedback to this report.