IT IS A wonderful sight to have young and emergent local artists exhibit and see the hard work put in to the creative process. The initiative and bravery taken by these local artists is a glimpse of the potential Nelson Mandela Bay artists have.

The exhibition Sinogo bani? Sisuka phi? Sisengisele phi? (or in English, Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?) considers some striking queries on epistemology and existence.

A group exhibition of five homegrown artists which ran at the Athenaeum Art Gallery from 1 - 28 August represents a collection of intense, interpretive and reflexive work by Banele Njadayi, Bamanye Lethu Ngxale, Ludwe Mgolombane, Siyabonga Ngaki and Zukile Valisa.

Although the organization of the exhibition was not flawless – with a number of obvious last minute put togethers when the guests were arriving – the striking artworks remained centre-stage. One of the downfalls was that in the final stages of hanging, literally before the first people walked through the door on opening night, was missing labels, meaning the public did not know whose art they were looking at or what the price-tag was.

In spite of these glitches, the intensity of the exhibition – and the very fact that this ensemble of young artists managed to pull together such a riveting collection of work – shone through.

Artist and Gallery Owner, Usen Obot, from Gallerie Noko, gave the opening speech where he stressed that a “finest clique of artists or aficionados” does not exist in the Eastern Cape as such a criteria does not exist and all space is experimental. His words seemed to be so appropriate within this set-up. They were words of encouragement to keep on exhibiting and no title was needed to be an artist.

The sad truth of the matter is that often the said clique, which actually does exist, was not there to hear Obot give his opinion. So Obot was preaching to the converted.

A group collection of five black artists did not attract the attention of the largely white going arts audience; and while this did not mean a poor turnout; what was missing from the opening night was an endorsement from the arts community at large. A pity, considering the caliber of work on show.

The very same majority that plays a significant role in the arts industry are the very same people that can make such a huge difference – both by buying and by their stamp of approval. To have a strong art exhibition culture in the city is something that is very much needed, but more so those that support emergent talent.

The work by the “famous five” was a breath of fresh air, a step forward to greater art works being exhibited by young artists in the Bay. Singobani? Sisukaphi? Sisingisele phi? opened the platform for other young artists that felt that it was challenging to have an exhibition before. Support or no support from the well-respected clique, nothing is going to stop this fivesome.

By Sibo Sontsonga