Speak For The Trees

An Art for a Healthy Lifestyle Project
Community ZA Gallery: 5 December.
Speak for the Trees: Six artists with different backgrounds and experiences have been collaborating on an innovative art project using recycled and found materials for the past few weeks, culminating in an exhibition to open at Community ZA Gallery on 5 December.
Mzansi Arts Development’s Art for a Healthy Lifestyle Project: Speak for the Trees exhibition is supported by the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) in association with the Nedbank Arts Affinity.
“Art for a Healthy Lifestyle is a campaign to promote community health and wellbeing through the medium of creative arts. Turning garbage into art is one of the fundamental projects in the campaign and holds a significant position in the cleaning up of the environment but also, in the spread of awareness around littering and waste disposal and its adverse health effects. It is a six-week project that results in a theme park filled with artworks by resident artists from the area KwaMashu,” explains project producer, Lerato Bellinda Molemong from Mzansi Arts Development Ensemble who initiated the project.
Visual artist Christine Adams has been facilitating the process: “We have been training for five weeks working in 3D media which has been a new experience for most of the participants who typically are painters and sketchers. We have made five life-size trees from recycled materials which will on display as the entre piece of the exhibition – called Speak for the Trees. The participants also have been working on individual pieces of work which will be exhibited alongside the trees,” she explains. “The process teaches art-making skills and interpersonal collaboration,” she said.
“Art is a way of communicating. It is about expressing the self and sharing feelings – much like a language,” considers Selbourne Sithembiso Shangase – the most experienced art maker in the group. “Working collaboratively means teaching people without being aware that you are teaching. Art means we can express ourselves while impressing others! I am grateful to Andries Botha who nurtured and mentored me through the Community Arts Workshop. I am happy to be able to now mentor others. We must work together – collaboration is the only way: when two elephants are fighting, the grass suffers.”
“I am new to this having just finished matric,” explains Lizeka Shezi – one of the younger participants. “I don’t have any experience as an artist – it is my passion that is driving me and I love learning these new skills,” she enthuses.
The group is made up of six artists from KwaMashu gleaned through the ongoing MADE’s arts learnership programme. Participants are: Sithembiso Shangase; Gift Dlamini; Thembinkosi Ngobese; Lizeka Shezi; Khulekani Mkhize and Zazi Nxumalo. They are being mentored by project co-ordinator and exhibition curator, Christine Adams, with support from Selbourne Sithimbiso Shangase The intention is to learn from each other’s’ experiences during the process.
Established in 2005, Mzansi Arts Development (MADE) is a non-profit community-driven organisation inspired by the lack of skills, slow growth and recognition of the SA arts industry. MADE promotes arts and culture as a source of personal fulfilment and carves a potential career path for students and interns in a myriad art forms – performing and visual arts – affirming their skills through an integrated academic training and development programme.
Entry to the gallery is free and all are welcome. The gallery can be found at 3 Millar Rd Durban, opening on 5 December running until 8 December.
It is hoped that the Speak for the Trees will find a more permanent place to be displayed after the initial exhibition in one of the city’s parks or public places.

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