Inside the ‘Unbound’ Investec Cape Town Art Fair

Art truly has the power to bring people together and to spark dialogue and to ignite something exciting in all our imaginations.

This was on full display over the weekend at the recently held 2024 Investec Cape Town Art Fair by Italian exhibition group Fiera Milano Exhibitions Africa, where over 100 exhibitors collaborated to create a weekend of viewing, buying and celebrating African visual art and storytelling.

The annual event was held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and welcomed over 25 000 visitors between 16 and 18 February.

There were paintings, clothes, furniture, sculptures, installations, three separate lounging areas with food and drinks, a few bookstores, a section for children to paint for fun, and an outside area where you could soak up the sun and listen to a bit of music.

There were also talks by architects, fashion designers, art critics, historians and curators, musicians, writers and visual artists, as well as walkabouts curated by Art School Africa running concurrently at other venues.

The theme for the affair was centred around a singular word – ‘Unbound’.

The purpose of this year was to put a question forward: How can the experience of art liberate the mind?

The interpretations of what liberation is were thought-provoking.

From photo realistic nude self portraits, someone only using recycled materials in their sculptures, and drawing one’s dreams and nightmares, to images so abstract you need a third and fourth look, it seems there may not be a single correct answer to this.

Mixed-medium artist Nomthunzi Mashalaba’s knitwork was so reminiscent of gorgeous crimson and orange sunsets, with attention to detail that it was mesmerising.

Her ‘Mind Whirlpools are Frequent in Most Days’ piece is somehow both chaotic and serene, both freestyled and planned meticulously.

‘Our Last Stone’, a sculpture by Abduus Salaam, was enchanting. It looked like a pile of rocks were sitting on top of each other and were each shaped like they were melting into each other.

He is able to take something hard and cold like a stone and make it look soft and pliable.

It sort of helps the brain break free from what it knows about the world.

Mongezi Gum’s painting, titled ‘Elevated Rhythms’, showing an old school party, with people dancing and rejoicing does such a good job of capturing the positive spirit of each person, you feel almost transported inside of it.

This is something I could see myself hanging in my own home. When I went back for the second time it was sold.

Then there’s Hari Lualhati, who captures her own emotions in a hauntingly beautiful self-portrait, as seen from above, with the artist baring herself almost completely.

Her ‘I See You’ piece feels very intimate and personal.

This event was also a chance to bring unconventional artists and works to the forefront as a way to break free from what is normal.

What was lovely to witness was the sheer ferocity of Cape Town art lovers’ desire to see and discuss art.

I may point out my favourite portrait or sculpture, but there is truly no way to fully encapsulate just how much there was to see, and how much of it I loved.

There was a statue of a man with a boulder for a head, a pile of items seemingly fished from a pool, a portrait of Beyoncé and Jay Z, glass beads, jewellery, and I’m sure I’m missing loads more.

Some of it was so poignant and layered, and some of it was fun and simple, but all of it had its place and its audience.

– Anne Hambuda is a poet, writer and social commentator. Follow her online or email her for more.

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