The promise I make to you as the reader and to the broader Bloemfontein arts community is that whatever we say about something, we will do our utmost best to offer a well-researched, engaged and developmental opinion, writes ART STATE Editor Ace Moloi.
On 20 July 2007 the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) launched its international channel, SABC News International. In his keynote address, President Thabo Mbeki asked this about Channel 404:
“Will this channel be a tool used to perpetuate the incorrect typecasting of Africa as a continent that is represented by nothing except conflicts, death and everything that is negative? Or, will we see a refreshingly new approach to reporting on Africa, whose greater part is characterised by peace, stability and progress?”
A decade later in my first note as the editor of ART STATE I find myself thinking about President Mbeki’s rhetorical concern, especially as it relates to the coverage of Bloemfontein and her wonders by mainstream media. This is because on the shrunk scheme of things, Bloemfontein is to South Africa what Africa is on the larger world map.
Perception doesn’t favour us. Media coverage overlooks us. National protest movements see us as secondary revolutionaries. Those who come to our town for Macufe do so not for our arts and culture, but women. We are generally not taken seriously, even when we wear masks of other cities, do their music and speak in their accent.
So, you as the reader may correctly ask, “Will this website be a tool used to showcase the goodness of Mangaung? Or, further fuel the wrong impression that this city is as quiet as a cemetery?”
I’m coming in as the editor of this very ambitious platform understanding the principal responsibility we have assumed, to answer the questions raised by President Mbeki, which are in fact questions sitting on the lips of many people in this region.
Here at ART STATE we pay attention to art, artistry and artists. We don’t claim to provide a platform. We don’t want featured artists and institutions to feel humbled that we have written about them. We review, critique, honour and interrogate.
So, if the one we honoured thanks us for believing in them, what does that say about the grilled one? What I mean is that our unspoken editorial policy is that we don’t do anybody a favour by being nice, just as we don’t intend to hate on anybody by being critical. It’s all about art – and art in abundance.
Bloemfontein doesn’t really have a culture of peer reviews and robust engagements on each other’s work. If someone does something we applaud them for, as school teachers say to boost the confidence of kids, say after me: “At least doing something.”
For us to maximise our collective potential we need to forget a little bit about “ha ho tshwane o itekile” and be honest in the improvement of the other – from a position of love, no doubt.
The promise I make to you as the reader and to the broader Bloemfontein arts community is that whatever we say about something, we will do our utmost best to offer a well-researched, engaged and developmental opinion.
Ours shall be a voice of authority. The writing team is authorised by years and years of practice to write for ART STATE. Our guest contributors will be just as authoritative. Sentiment will yield to reason at the crossroad of decision-making. There’s Facebook and Twitter for thumb-sucked views.
My challenge to you as our partner in this new and exciting journey is simple: read and engage our content. On our side we will make sure that we write and write in a way that doesn’t disrespect writing as an art. If the writing on this site sucks, we will take the whole thing down and I will quit quietly and go chase locusts in Qwa-Qwa.
In this first edition of ART STATE we have a diverse menu for your indulgence. Fresh from our oven is a review of CUT FM’s breakfast show, under the ON-AIR tab. Often times when we speak about art we constrain ourselves to on-stage performances and paintings. But art is bigger than the stage itself. So, to be on radio is to be an artist, hence this radio-dedicated feature. If you are a Bloemfontein-based radio presenter, all I can say is, “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU!”
The Free State Arts Festival came and disappeared, leaving us with a lot of finger-licking and lip-biting exercises, chief among which being the controversial judging at The Naked Slam. Local poets aired their unhappiness with the outcome of the slam on Facebook and we – being the authorities – invited two disagreeing individuals to test each other’s understanding of how things work. Don’t miss this debate. See OPEN MIC.
You will also have to see an analysis of the entire thing under the REVIEW section, just so you know what’s up.
On the same night Bloemfontein filled up the Andre Huguenet Theatre to capacity for Poetic Blues, CUT-based OddZ hosted Lights Out. We have Poetic Blues for you and a review of Lights Out.
Many things are happening in the city. There’s always a show to go to. There’s always a show you didn’t know about. There’s always a show we as ART STATE didn’t write about. Maybe one day we will have an events committee that allocates dates to organisers, so that this small art lovers market we have here doesn’t become much smaller when it has to divide itself. Bloemfontein is not a big city. We can’t afford to have clashing shows.
Nonetheless, for our part, we will do our best to publish and update our events guide, so that you’re always in the know of what’s cooking. If you have a show lined up, feel free to hit us up so that we can hang it on the gig guide wall. We also have very wallet-friendly advertising rates.
Yes, this is a platform that can amplify your brand message. Plus, our team of writers have what it takes to write your brand story in a captivating way for greater impact. Try us and see if we won’t fling open the gates of our vocabulary and earn you more business.
My dream is to see ART STATE become a resource centre for locals and tourists alike. A site visitors go to for art happenings in the city. I have communicated this vision to the publisher and writing team. One of the ways we’re going to achieve this goal is through features of places that host shows.
There’s more pinned to our vision board!
I cited the words of President Thabo Mbeki in the beginning of this note. In the same spirit I call on him, in a speech delivered at the 1998 African Renaissance Conference, to once again say, “Our arts should celebrate both our humanity and our capabilities to free ourselves from backwardness and subservience. They should say to us that if we dare to win, we will win!”
We, the people of Mangaung, will win!