© NELE STRÖBEL
In August 2004 the IMBENGE DREAMHOUSE project was launched in the State Museum of Ethnology in Munich. Right from the very beginning it has received positive responses from the professional art world and has attracted great public interest. And this is still the case today. So the launch and the initial stage of the project was warmly received by the German public and media, as well as by the participating artists, coming from various districts in South Africa and diverse places in Europe (Munich, Berlin, France) as well as Japan and New York.
Subsequently, according to plan, the second part of the IMBENGE DREAMHOUSE workshop took place from February 2nd to 18th 2005 at the Durban Cultural and Ducumentation Center in Durban South Africa.
The second part of the project was carefully prepared and organized by the Department of International Communication of the South African Ministry of Culture, who generously offered accomodation to the artists at the Holiday Inn Hotel, daily allowances and extended a rich cultural programme to all guests.
All expectations and hopes which initiator and participating artist Nele Ströbel put into the workshop when starting it in Munich, as well as the expectations of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the relevant Departments of the Bavarian Government, who strongly supported the project from the very beginning, were fully accomplished.
At this point it has to be stressed that the project was only made possible through the persevering and effective support by Director Mr. Percy Molefe and Ms. Pertunia Tshweu from the Ministry of Culture, Department of Cultural Development and International Relations, who placed so much confidence in the project, supporting and mentoring it from its very beginning. The Artistic Director and Production Management gratefully do acknowledge these efforts which led to such an outstanding and positive result. They were also glad and much honoured by the official reception, which Director Molefe and Ms. Tshweu offered in the name of the South African Ministry. The group was invited to an official dinner on the evening of their arrival in Durban.
Also, the Eastern Evening at the Tudor Conference Centre, which was offered by the KZN Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism has been acknowledged as an honour and a cultural experience, that undoubtedly both, the European and South African guests will keenly keep in mind. Guest speakers Director M. B. Mnguni, Act. Head of Department Mr. B. E. Ntanzi and Artistic Director Nele Ströbel, together with Production Manager Cornelia Albrecht pointed out the importance of arts and culture as a medium for transnational mutual understanding and as a means for the development of any nation in its endeavour towards wealth, strength and civilisation. It should also be mentioned, that the artistic presentations of this evening were of an outstanding quality.
As regards the artistic personnel the Imbenge group was stable and during the Durban leg of the workshop only one artist Durban based, Ms. Happiness, from the South African side joined the group as a new member.
Filmmaking duo Stefanie Sycholt and German Kral documented both the Munich and Durban workshops, portraying the artists at work and the cultural interchange between them. They were also able to obtain valuable footage on the origins of the Imbenge techniques, which will be very valuable in putting together a DVD that is to accompany the exhibition of the IMBENGE DREAM HOUSE. They were greatly assited by Chris Randlehoff from the Durban Cultural and Documentation Centre in getting to locations in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal, as well as linking up with various interview partners in Durban. We hope very much that we will be able to get the remaining necessary funding together to produce this DVD as it will be more than valuable in explaining the IMBENGE DREAM HOUSE Project to audiences in Europe and South Africa. It will be especially valuable in the South African context where audiences will not always be able to read catalogues, but will be able to understand the DVD.
The seven artists from Munich, Berlin, New York and Japan, as well as their six fellow artists coming from different districts of South Africa, were given the very special opportunity of sharing and exchanging their professional experience and individual artistic concepts, while, at the same time they could accomplish the teamwork sculpture and get a deep insight into the - not only local - cultural life and structure of Durban town and region.
The workshop which was arranged for the thirteen artists, was actively hosted and coached by the Durban Cultural and Documentation Centre. The convention hall of the centre turned out to be the perfect place for the project.
During the entire process the artists were not only warmly and generously received by director, Raj Govender, and his professional and effective team, they also received the best administrative and organisational support, as well as any detailed advice they desired and needed during their stay. Fortunately, Artistic Director Nele Ströbel, Filmmaker Stefanie Sycholt and Production Manager Cornelia Albrecht were able to meet Director Mr. M.B. Mnguni from the Ethekweni Arts, Culture and Tourism Department, and had an intense discourse about cultural perspectives and issues of common interest.
A rich dialogue with Cultural Officers Eben Otto, Chris Randlehoff and their esteemed colleagues came into existence as well, due to the close proximity of the workshop and their offices, as well as their valuable contributions to the cultural programme of the workshop.
The artists did not only enjoy the multilayered cultural programme that was offered by the South African Ministry. The guests from abroad also got deep insights into the local cultural tradition and background by a visit to the Kwa Mushle Museum and the Indian Cultural Centre in Durban. They also were impressed by the various activities and facilities of the Bat Centre and its passionate director Nisa Malange whom they were able to meet on their visit to the centre.
The artists also enjoyed the relaxed and friendly atmosphere at excursions to a classical violin concert by KZN Philharmonic Orchestra Violinist Elena Kerimova at Wilson Wharf on Sunday morning, which had been generously offered as programme for the leisure periods, as well as a visit to the newly opened and impressing U Shaka leisure park.
Considerable communicative benefit was driven from the fact that daily lunch and tea time intermissions were taken together. These intermissions were intensively used for conversation and mutual exchange of artistic expertise within the group. Over time and supported by the enthusiastic staff of the Cultural Centre, the workshop developed into a real communicative process, a platform where guests and representatives from the local cultural, diplomatic and media scene could show up to make contact, share ideas, discuss artistic concepts and develop possible future perspectives. Artists and representatives of the local University, as well as members of the Deutsch-Südafrikanische Gesellschaft and the Alliance Francaise visited the workshop and new concrete plans arose for presenting the IMBENGE sculpture at additional places in Europe, such as the Museum in Nancy, the French partner town of Durban.
Furthermore, The IMBENGE DREAM HOUSE project was covered by press reports from the Durban-based newspapers Sunday Times and The Mercury, which is of positive effect for the professional career of the artists.
The IMBENGE DREAM HOUSE project opened new perspectives of work for the participants. Especially for the artists from South Africa there were many positive effects:
The project proved that arts and culture can play an important role as an ambassador for developing peace, transnational understanding and friendship between the nations.
With reference to the actual development of economic and communicative globalization, it has been a platform for the development and discussion of complex solutions in a world that is getting more complex day by day.
It was a platform for mutual learning and the artists had the opportunity of sharing some time by concentrating on common issues and discourse items, whereas cultural values and ideas could be exchanged and discussed exhaustively.
It turned out that there was a large interest in discussing the difference of cultural backgrounds and the different approaches to economic and cultural questions, whereas friendship and the desire of tolerance were crucial.
Considerable progress in regard of individual professional development could be identified under several aspects:
From June 8th to July 3rd, 2005 the IMBENGE DREAMHOUSE sculpture will be exhibited in the State Museum of Ethnology in Munich, according to plan. The opening ceremony is scheduled on June 7th, 2005. Details to follow.
Munich, March 24h, 2005