In conversation: Meshack Raphalalani, Avhashoni Mainganye and Jameson Ramvivhelo on the need to revive the VhaVenda Art Foundation and Ḓitike

Editorial note: This is a translated transcript of a conversation between former members of the VhaVenda Art Foundation, held on 5 August 2017 at the Victim Empowerment Centre, Thohoyandou, Limpopo. The original video recording (in TshiVenda) can be viewed on YouTube. The conversation formed part of a series of roundtable conversations with community arts networks active in the 1980s and early 1990s that have been convened by ASAI, with financial support from the National Lotteries Commission. Thank you to Gudani Ramikosi for the translation and transcription.

Meshack Raphalalani: Yes, if the Foundation is revived things will be well.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: I think it will go well.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes, it’s the same people…

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Same people.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Because if we are talking about people, it is still the same people, it is the same, and it will also help having you [Jameson Ramvuvhelo] with all the knowledge of making drums and other things, you should be there. If people like Mr Raphalalani are here and myself, we can organise ourselves and travel overseas and teach people there, and how about children here.

Meshack Raphalalani: Yes. What will help is that we still have Fiona [Nicholson], she is already here, she will help us in marketing.

Avhashoni Mainganye: She is already around.

Meshack Raphalalani: She will help in marketing.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: And knowledge.

Meshack Raphalalani: She has a lot of knowledge, it will be same as how it was before.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Like before.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Because we as artists we don’t have time to market ourselves…

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Yes, to create.

Avhashoni Mainganye: We have time to create.

Avhashoni Mainganye: So that was the part Ḓitike was doing, marketing us while we stayed at home working, cars would be sent to collect stuff and send them to shows, like Grahamstown, Pretoria show, Rand Easter show and all, you see.

Meshack Raphalalani: I think what will work is that if Ḓitike is bought by its own artists…

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Meshack Raphalalani: Because we will say when we are there…

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Meshack Raphalalani: Cleaning it and making it right, one will come and say ‘this place is mine’…

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Meshack Raphalalani: ‘And I have bought it’, then…

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Meshack Raphalalani: Where we will take our staff and others.

Avhashoni Mainganye: I think this is the issue we should talk about also, but it depends on us coming back together and seeing what the problem is and what we can do. The way I see it we don’t have a solution yet as artists, even though we had started to see the benefit of the foundation of Ditike.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Yes.

Avhashoni Mainganye: But now the benefits have scattered…

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Yes, into thin air.

Avhashoni Mainganye: That is why we should come together and recreate what we had.

Meshack Raphalalani: So the artists can come together if they have seen the benefit of Ḓitike.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Meshack Raphalalani: If Ḓitike can give them something small, after they have created something. Ḓitike needs to establish its market where it will sell their products. That is how the Foundation could work. Because if they don’t sell their products and get the money to use while they create…

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes, yes.

Meshack Raphalalani: Where are they going to get the energy?

Avhashoni Mainganye: They won’t have energy.

Meshack Raphalalani: He won’t have energy. Energy is being given money for the things they have created, marketed by that Foundation, if it is like that you will see things could go well.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: I have faith that it could work because we have a knowledgeable person we had before.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: A white person, she will do what she was doing before if she is given a chance again, she knows galleries.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: We can’t hold any job position while we are crafting. The second thing is that this place was famous.

Avhashoni Mainganye: That is where Venda art came from.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Yes.

Avhashoni Mainganye: It comes from that, the art was visible in galleries, ‘where does it come?’’Where does it come from?’ It comes from Venda.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Hosting shows.

Avhashoni Mainganye: All the time, where does this art come from? It comes from Venda.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: When there were shows, asking money from the government. I think if we say government, most time government wants… It can guide us, because whatever we might do if it doesn’t give, it has got the upper hand.

Meshack Raphalalani: Government must get involved and help with funds to buy Ḓitike, they must buy us a place, and we can’t go on hiring Ḓitike, that is why it often closes.

Avhashoni Mainganye: I think what we should do is to first call the meeting, maybe we should call those who were involved before in the beginning because the idea is coming while we are few. We need to hear other people’s input, then we will see, because things these days need to be affirmed, it has to be written down. Because when it comes to asking for money, it requires to be written down, we must write it down. Because to acquire funds we need to have an organisation and members.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: And members.

Avhashoni Mainganye: If we revive the Foundation, the main objective is that the Foundation can assist in requesting funds as an NPO.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Yes.

Meshack Raphalalani: Yes that is the point, because if it is like that Ḓitike will rise again and cater what it used to cater before. Yes, besides that, what Mr Mainganye said about meeting, call the artists who were part of Ḓitike and even the new ones.

Avhashoni Mainganye: New ones.

Meshack Raphalalani: They just don’t know that what they had made…

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Created.

Meshack Raphalalani: They created, they don’t know where to take them. Where will they send their creations to get rewarded?

Avhashoni Mainganye: Without a market it won’t work. Things will just fill up the granary.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: There are many people…

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Many just go around carrying wooden spoons and winnowing baskets. If we take that idea of a meeting…

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Mr Mainganye can go on radio and make a call for a meeting.

Meshack Raphalalani: Another thing is, people may ask why these people want Ḓitike while there is an art centre, now.

Avhashoni Mainganye: We see the art centre but it’s not being utilised for the needs of the artists. We see it is being used for wedding, birthday parties, meetings and other things. We see it’s a trend in many art centres, it means that artists are always side-lined.

Meshack Raphalalani: That is true.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Meshack Raphalalani: I think the old Ḓitike was situated in the right place, because people going to Thohoyandou pass by it, people going to hotels…

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Meshack Raphalalani: There is a big hotel towards Sibasa…

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Meshack Raphalalani: That people go to. Because the old Ḓitike was on that road it was visible. People can’t ask, they just see it and get inside. If there is a sign that says ‘art centre’ they will get in. Better than the current one where people are always asking for its directions because they can’t see it. They can’t see it…

Avhashoni Mainganye: It’s hidden.

Meshack Raphalalani: Because it’s not visible.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: What about a place like Phangami?

Avhashoni Mainganye: No, no. There is an original Ḓitike built for artists, not other things.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Yes.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Look at us artists, we are still here. Even the person who was prominent, like Fiona, she is still around.

Meshack Raphalalani: It’s true because that place was opened by the late King Mphephu, officially opened by himself, and he said its for the artists. The late king himself. so now, when some people use it for something else we don’t understand.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: It would be better if we come together.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: When we are gathered there are quorums. To remind each other about the building built for artists.

Avhashoni Mainganye: You are giving me an idea, maybe we should write a letter. We will go to the leadership, because the building was built by VDC [Venda Development Corporation] and VDC does not exist anymore, what is left is LIMDEV [Limpopo Economic Development Enterprise]. It now represents VDC, if we go and request a meeting…

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Yes.

Avhashoni Mainganye: And have it there, it will help us find out where we stand with Ḓitike.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Yes.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Whether it is torn up or shuttered it might give us the old boldness of working, I don’t know how this sits with you?

Meshack Raphalalani: I think it’s a great idea, if we approach LIMDEV and talk about this issue we will be doing the right thing. Because they might know something…

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: That’s the place…

Meshack Raphalalani: About Ḓitike and how it operates now, and whose leadership it is under. It was built for us artists.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Where we may go and they give us a go ahead.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes. Because it seems they don’t know its purpose anymore, because they are cooking meat, washing cars, dancing and many other thing that it was not built for.

Meshack Raphalalani: That’s why it can’t hold up.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Meshack Raphalalani: Because its being used for a something else.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Yes.

Meshack Raphalalani: Let it be used for what it was made for. There where the artists were to display their artefacts, because now we see nothing happening. I think it is time that its revived. Even when it’s winter and the fountain dries up.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: It can be scooped out.

Avhashoni Mainganye: It burst there.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: If it’s dirty it can be scooped.

Avhashoni Mainganye: You see.

Meshack Raphalalani: When summer comes and it rains it awakens there.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Let it awaken there.

Meshack Raphalalani: Let art arise there.

Avhashoni Mainganye: I think its going to be a challenge which we will have to tell Fiona, that we have agreed on this, let’s start with writing letters now.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Yes, Fiona.

Avhashoni Mainganye: It must not take time.

Meshack Raphalalani: That is the idea Mr Mainganye, letters must be written now, so we will be able to revive Ḓitike. Let drum…

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: Begin to beat.

Meshack Raphalalani: Let the drum begin.

Avhashoni Mainganye: I think we will be losing what we had in our hands, art was known through the organisation we had started and money was coming in.

Meshack Raphalalani: Because Ḓitike was built in a way that when entering you pass by it, when you leave and wants to buy gifts, Ḓitike is there they pass by it. You see.

Avhashoni Mainganye: What is left is to write letters, and see whom we can give…

Avhashoni Mainganye: We will give the message to Fiona to check who we can give it to at VDC, I mean at LIMDEV.

Meshack Raphalalani: Yes. I too see it that way.

Avhashoni Mainganye: Let’s conclude it like that.

Jameson Ramvuvhelo: I think we have settled on the real issue.

Meshack Raphalalani: It is settled.

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