This June on 75 JOSH ST

June 2019

We are so excited to welcome award-winning visiting artist Penny Siopis and Curator, Olga Speakes in residency at the National Gallery in Bulawayo for  #MovingStories now in Bulawayo: thrift shops, gallery spaces and traveling objects. Join us for the opening on the 14th of June! #MovingStories @byogallery @pennysiopis #yvonnevera #augustmusarurwa #skokiaan

About the exhibition:

Moving Stories and Travelling Rhythms

Penny Siopis and the many journeys of Skokiaan

A sprawling site-responsive installation of drawings, newspapers and found objects, entitled Tuning Time extending across the curvatures of spacious walls; Breathless and Blue, a set of small paintings in ink, glue and oil paint inhabiting the opposite wall; a video artwork Welcome Visitors!, in the next room filling the the air of the gallery with familiar melody; a documentary film exploring the histories of township jazz in Zimbabwe – all these elements are brought together in the historic rooms of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo as part of the exhibition that sets in dialogue the many narratives and memories, fictional and documentary accounts that were inspired by the story of Skokiaan.

This piece of music was composed in the nineteen forties by Zimbabwean August Musarurwa and played by his band Bulawayo Sweet Rhythms. It was later performed around the world by many musicians, including Louis Armstrong, who visited the country in 1960 and met Musarurwa.
Penny Siopis’s video work Welcome Visitors! uses montage techniques to
combine found footage – anonymous home movies of the sixties and some media sequences of Armstrong’s visit to Africa – with text and music, creating a narrative that speaks beyond the specific historically documented circumstances of the encounter. The installation pulls together many threads that emerge from the story and follows them, through the materiality of the objects and associative connections, all the way into the present moment; the use of newspapers locates the work on the steps of the gallery where newspaper sellers continue to write history every day with their news headlines. The documentary by Joyce Jenje Makwenda on the history of Zimbabwe Township Music provides a wider context for the narratives explored in the artworks through many personal interviews of those who keep history alive in their memory. It draws attention to the journeys of migrant workers that connected Bulawayo with Johannesburg and the wider history of jazz music that
moved across borders and beyond restrictions imposed on people by colonial regimes on the continent. The voices of the artist and the historian are echoed by the voices that animate the pages of Yvonne Vera’s famous novel The Stone Virgins. These voices reclaim their own memories of Satchmo and Skokiaan from histories that excluded them. 
Their words, which Siopis uses in her installation, and Vera’s intense, lyrical and rhythmic style, which Siopis invokes in the materiality of her paintings and their title, form another thread that weaves itself into the exhibition where journeys between memory, history and the present moment never cease to reveal new truths that could not be defined as either fact or fiction.

This exhibition is curated by Olga Speakes, art historian and lecturer at the
University of Cape Town

About the Artist.

Siopis was born in Vryburg, South Africa, and lives in Cape Town. She has an MFA (1976) and an Honorary Doctorate (2017) from Rhodes University, Grahamstown. Siopis is currently an Honorary Professor at Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. She works in painting, film/video, photography and installation. Her work since the early 1980s has covered different foci but her interest in what she calls the ‘poetics of vulnerability’ characterises all her explorations, from her earlier engagements with history, memory and migration to her later concerns with shame, violence and sexuality. You can find more information and CV here 


About the Curator: Olga Speakes,

Recent Relevant Work Experience

2018 Guest lecturer in Art History and Discourse of Art, Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. 2015-2016 Co-curator, with Ernestine White, Women’s Work: crafting stories, subverting narratives exhibition at Iziko South African National Gallery (worked on all aspects of the curatorial process).
2014-2017 Tutor in Art History and Discourse, Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT. 2015 Curator for “and/or”, Masters in Fine Art 2015 Graduate Exhibition at the Michaelis Galleries, UCT. 2014 Volunteer Assistant Curator for Penny Siopis Retrospective Exhibition at Iziko South African National Gallery. 2014 Volunteer Intern at Iziko South African National Gallery (African Art Collection, Contemporary Art Collection).
2013 Intern Curator. Sanlam Art Gallery and Sanlam Art Collection.
As part of a group of four intern curators she conceptualised and organised a performance art intervention at Sanlam offices and a Restructuring Encounters exhibition at Sanlam Art Galley. She was also actively involved in all aspects of the exhibition catalogue production (conceptualising, planning, essay writing, liaising with contributors, editing, copy-editing).

“This is the exhibition project that I have been working on since the end of last year. It is one of those that takes you where you never thought you would go, meandering your way through texts, histories, memories, places; meeting incredible people and allowing the story to unfold. Traveling across borders is still not easy but if any of you are able to join us for the opening at the National Gallery in Bulawayo, it would be amazing” Olga Speakes.

Penny will also conduct a workshop with invited artists.

For more details about the residency and the exhibition please do not hesitate to contact the Curatorial team at the gallery email: