The Art of Comics Exhibition
The Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), the Embassy of France in South Africa and the French Institute of SA are pleased to present The Art of Comics, an exciting new exhibition that showcases the fascinating worlds of South African comics and French bandes dessinées, the famous French comic style.
The Art of Comics, taking place from 19 September until 17 November 2019 at JAG, will offer visitors a rich variety of contemporary South African comics and graphic novels that explore themes related to history, folklore, science fiction, autobiography and new developments in the field, such as augmented reality comics. The exhibition will also include a special section on French Speaking Comics Today, curated by Thierry Groensteen, one of France’s leading bande dessinées researchers and theorists.
Various workshops will be organised during the exhibition for schools and the public, led by South African and French experts as well as special guests, to learn about the techniques around comics, animation and augmented reality.
The exhibition is timed to coincide with Comic Con Africa, the continent’s largest comic festival, to give the public a wider look into the world of comics and animation.
The Art of Comics is presented by the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Embassy of France in South Africa and the French Institute of South Africa, and sponsored by Total, who will be bringing more than 800 students to the exhibition.
About the exhibition
The Art of Comics is the first exhibition of its kind at the Johannesburg Art Gallery and offers visitors, both young and old, the chance to discover the beauty and diversity of comics and bandes dessinées. In France bandes dessinées (comic strips) are a highly regarded artform and represent a significant portion of the literary industry. Some of the most successful new generation francophone artists such as Lewis Trondheim, Riad Sattouf, Zep and Pénélope Bagieu will be represented. In South Africa, the comic culture is growing, with events such as ComicCon Africa 2018 attracting more than 45 000 visitors over a single weekend. This exhibition showcases local cartoonists such as Mogorosi Motshumi, Joe Daly, Loyiso Mkize, Nas Hoosen, Daniel Clarke, Daniël Hugo, Kit Beukes, Jesse Breytenbach and Kay Carmichael.
No matter which side of the exhibition visitors start at, they will find different worlds to explore. Perhaps they might accompany artist Emmanuel Lepage and his brother François on an arctic adventure in La Lune est Blanche, or join Siku on the banks of the Zambezi as she discovers the mysterious events around the Kariba Dam with her friend Amedeo in Kariba. There are also smaller and more personal mysteries to explore, such as those that haunt the forest of Maya LeMaitre’s Found, and the relationship between two estranged brothers in Come Prima by Alfred.
Whilst the exhibition shows the diversity in style and story across cultures, it also reveals common themes and threads that tie France and South Africa together. On each side of the exhibition, artists explore questions such as ‘what do the new heroes look like?’ and ‘how can comics help us understand history and tell our own stories?’. Comics play an important role in defining and affirming our identities which can be seen in comics such as The Arab of the Future (L'Arabe du futur) and in the stories of young queer Africans collected by the Qintu Collab for the graphic novel Meanwhile. The partnership between France and South Africa on this exhibition reminds us that art is a universal language, telling the story of the human experience, one panel at a time.
Discover South African & French Talent
The work of important South African artists, including Loyiso Mkize, Mogorosi Motshumi and Luke Molver, will be on display. Mkize is the talent behind South Africa’s first real superhero, Kwezi, and behind The Art of Comics' visual identity, while Motshumi is the first black South African to publish an autobiography in a graphic novel format, entitled The Initiation. Motshumi is the artist behind the 1980s comic strip Sloppy. Molver is behind the Shaka Rising graphic novel series, and will soon be launching its second edition.
Some of the best French bandes dessinées artists will be showcased, including Riad Sattouf, cartoonist, comic artist, and film director who worked for the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo and wrote The Secret Life of Teenagers, as well as Pénélope Bagieu, author of the successful illustrated blog My Life is Fascinating, and Lewis Trondheim, an award-winning comic author, who created the independent bande dessinée publishing house L’association.
The work of other artists linked to animation and innovative formats, such as virtual reality, will also be displayed, including a VR experience of the short film Accused #2, based on sound archives from the famous Rivonia trial.
About the curators
Co-curator of the South African part of the exhibition
Whitcher is both a fervent connoisseur, as well as an avid maker of comics. He is currently producing his original title Wanton as a piece of creative practice research towards his PHD at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where he is also a lecturer in Animation at the Digital Arts Division of the Wits School of Arts. He has published three academic articles on comic practices in both international as well as South African contexts, and has been a panelist at the San Diego Comic Convention, Design Indaba, Arts in Society, CUMULUS and WIAD. He is about to release a book chapter on Digital Comics in Africa.
Co-curator of the South African part of the exhibition
Tara Weber graduated in 2013 from the Curatorship Honours at the University of Cape Town, whilst working part time in the University’s Special Collections archives. She has been working as registrar (and opportunistic curator) at the Johannesburg Art Gallery since 2014. She enjoys working to create new narratives within the JAG collection, and has curated and co-curated exhibitions such as The Evidence of Things Not Seen (2016), Spellbinders (2017) and Floating Worlds: Japanese – French Print Dialogues (2018) with Bernard Leveneur at the Léon Dierx Museum in Réunion.
Curator of the French part of the exhibition
Thierry Groensteen is one of the leading French-speaking bande dessinée researchers, and has published numerous books and articles on the subject. In 1984, Groensteen became the editor-in-chief of the old fanzine Schtroumpf: Les Cahiers de la bande dessinée, transforming it into one of the first publications that would lead to serious academic criticism of comics in France and beyond. He was the director of Angoulême's Musée de la bande dessinée during the early 1990s, and was the founder and editor at Éditions de L'An 2, before it was integrated by the famous publishing house Actes Sud. He is currently a lecturer at the École Européenne Supérieure des Arts et Technologies de l’Image in Angoulême.
Programme and workshops:
Thursday 19 September
Official Opening of The Art of Comics exhibition
Official opening as part of the ComicCon After Dark and Museum Night programme – 17:00
Saturday 21 September
Panel Discussion at Comic Con Africa
Discussion with The Art of Comics' curators Tara Weber, Ray Whitcher and Thierry Groensteen as well as special guests – 11:00
Sunday 22 September
Walkabout of The Art of Comics exhibition with the curators – 11:00
Drawing workshop with artist Serge Huo-Chao-Si from Reunion Island (space limited, RSVP essential) – 12:00
Tuesday 24 September
Heritage Day Programme
Children’s workshop with Johannesburg Family Gathering led by by Mabeleng Naledi and Khanyisa Sigwanda – 10:00
Special Heritage Day Public Walkabout – 11:00
25 - 27 September
School Holiday program at JAG
26 September: Comics Making 101 workshop with Ray Whitcher – 10:00-12:00 (space limited, RSVP essential)
Comics Making 101 workshop with Bill Masuku – 13:00-15:00 (space limited, RSVP essential)
Comics and Memory
Presentation around the importance of comics and animation in interpreting archival material with artist Oerd Van Cuijlenborg (Accused #2) as well as South African archivists and archives – 13:00
Comics and Queer Identity
Launch of Meanwhile Graphic novel of queer stories from East and Southern Africa book launch in partnership with GALA and Qintu Collab – 15:00-17:00
October Programme: Comics and Society
The focus of the month will be the importance of comics in social and political commentary. Artists such as Mogorosi Motshumi have made a valuable contribution to society through their cartoons and comics. Workshops, activities and talks will focus on topics related to the theme.
November Programme: Beyond the Page - the Future of Comics
This month will focus on workshops that explore the future of comics and the many forms that comics can take, featuring Kay Carmichael, the artist behind web comic Sophie Giant Slayer. More information will be made available online.
Sunday 17 November
Last walkabout with the curators before the closing of the exhibition – 11:00
JAG Art Classes Wednesdays 2-5pm in education studio (open to the public, RSVP essential)
Screen printing and zine making workshops (on request)
Guided School tours (on request)
For workshop booking: Contact Colin Groenewald at 011 725 3130 (extension 113) or coling@Joburg.org.za
From Thursday 19 September to Sunday 17 November
Public opening on Thursday 19 September at 17:00
Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG)
Corner Klein and King George Streets,
Joubert Park, Johannesburg
We recommend driving or making use of Uber to get to the JAG.
JAG has access to secure situated on the premise.
JAG's opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00 – 17:00
For interviews and further information:
Bridget van Oerle/ Sneziwe Dube
email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
011 477 0923/ 011 673 0264
The French Institute of South Africa (IFAS)
T: 011 403 0458