Seventh day in Johannesburg

Today it was cold, and people in streets were walking faster and less relaxed. I was wondering how it would effect our daily exhibition changing and if there would be enough people during the debate.

It was as cold in the museum as in the streets. The artists were freezing, but there were all punctual. At 2 pm precisely they were standing with their artworks in front of the exhibition space waiting to get in and exhibit.

Suddenly a big group of energetic young people came in. The filled up the room. I felt happy to see so many visitors. As soon as the artworks from yesterday were put down and the new artworks were installed, we started the debate. The first one was on western countries closing borders for refugees; the second one was on Trump’s xenophobic influence on language in schools; the third one was on water crisis in Brazil, that is only talked about now during Olympic games as threat for athletes and not as constant threat for the people living there; the fourth one on education of children and how the gender is being connected to power in an early stage, the fifth one on legalization of drugs; and the sixth one was about Red Ants and eviction.

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The debate was amazing. The young people participated a lot.  We discovered that there were students and a school choir. There were some teachers involved too who stimulated the debate, but the students were so well formulated and engaged. I found it touching. They took each artwork seriously; they contextualized to their own world. For example, they did not relate so directly to Syrian refugees situation in Europe, but they could talk about xenophobia in their own country and the dynamics of people moving in Africa. The Trump’s rhetoric and hate-speeches triggered them to debate on racial questions that they knew a lot about from their own experiences here in South Africa. The water problems in Brazil was discussed through the lance of global economy and ecology problems caused by western companies in the southern hemisphere. They also debated about the legalization of drugs and how it will affect the black market. They all related to the gender questions when it comes to education and had made some great connections to the rape culture, taking place in the country. And the Red Ants army for eviction of homeless people, even though it was not known to all of them, created a good debate and reflection on gentrification situation they are experiencing in their city.

The room got very fast warm during the debate, and I was honestly impressed about how much thinking and reflection six artworks could produce. The dialog created between the artists, and the audience was just amazing and so meaningful.

After the debate session, our visitors wanted to sing a song for us. The sound and the presence of the choir in the emergency art exhibition was somehow magic. I almost dropped a tear.

I could see that today’s exhibition made young people walked out of the museum with new thoughts and the artists walked out of the museum with more belief in art. For me, this encounter is the vital exchange of energy that keeps the hope alive. Hope for possible change and hope for a better future. “The future is gold,” said my friend and artist Nina Wengel and if it is so, we have to keep our hope and believe in finding it.

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