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Meet the Judges - Rolihahla Mhlanga, 2018

The PPC Imaginarium is excited to welcome artist, activist and curator Rolihlahla Mhlanga to the judges’ panel. We asked Rolihlahla for some insights:


  • Tell us about yourself. What work and/or projects are you involved in?

I am an art curator and my practice is based in Johannesburg. I am the current Curatorial Project Manager of the Assemblage project space. After the success of 2016’s Fresh Produce exhibition at the Turbine Art Fair, I curated another group show in 2017. The Fresh Produce exhibition is now the Talent Unlocked exhibition and is presented by Rand Merchant Bank. It is the culmination of the Artist Career Development Programme, developed by Assemblage in partnership with the Visual Arts Network of South Africa. I am a mentor for the 2018 showcase.

In 2014, I co-founded the Eyethu Gallery in Soweto. I used to be the Head Curator, and oversaw the mounting of several successful exhibitions.

In 2013, I was appointed co-director of the Mashumi Arts Project. I co-curated a series of exhibitions, the most notable being the Bombay Sapphire Imagination Room.

I completed a residency with Izarte, a Dutch gallery, in 2011. I curated a touring exhibition – a collaboration between The Soweto Hotel (RSA) and Izarte Gallery (NL) – under the title "Expressions without Borders". Later I was invited to co-curate a collaborative exhibition featuring the late photographer and former Kliptown resident/museum owner David Blom, a.k.a. Oom Bolo, and Dutch photographer Hanneke De Vries, and which was titled "At this time of the month, we have no money for food".


  • You are an established activist, curator and visual artist. Why arts? When did you decide the arts were important and why?

I am driven by my advocacy for the development of the township’s creative economy. This allows me to enable access to artists’ work as well as audience development.


  • What training and/or qualifications do you have and from where?

I studied in the Department of Fine Arts at the Funda Community College. I graduated and achieved a National Diploma in Fine Arts, majoring in painting and printmaking, in 2008.


  • What would you say has been the highlight of your career thus far?

I was commissioned to curate a group showcase as part of the eighth International Gorée Diaspora Festival in Dakar, Senegal, by the National Arts Council in late 2016.


  • As a first-time judge, what insights will you bring to the 2018 PPC Imaginarium Awards?

I spent the past 3-4 years in the developmental space, in particular artist career development. I helped to mediate between the artists and their art-making processes where I could – whether it was process-to-conceptualisation or conceptualisation-to-production.


  • What tips do you have for the entrants of this year’s PPC Imaginarium Awards?

I wish to impart my knowledge of the creative value chain. Entrants should know the significance of their participation in this prestigious award, and what this means for their career trajectory – win or lose.

  • In your view, what themes/issues are South African artists grappling with in 2018?

South African society as a whole is on the path of social and structural reform. There's a plethora of topics to be addressed. It would be interesting to see the entrants vocalising such development, as well as how South Africans are trying to achieve self-determination, through these designs and concepts.


  • Who is your biggest influence – artistic or other – and why?

Kagiso Pat Mautloa. He is a prolific artist and has influenced so many emerging South African artists.


  • How do you feel about the current state of the arts/design industry in South Africa?

There's still so much ground left to explore owing to conventions and trends that assume what the industry is and what it has always been. We are yet to see breakthroughs that are counterintuitive in the sector, that allow us to see and imagine new possibilities for our country and its people.


  • In your view, what role do platforms like the PPC Imaginarium Awards play in fostering the SA art/design industry?

They play a very critical role in helping young, emerging artists and designers to assert themselves in the sector. Platforms such as this one open new avenues and create room for self-determination.

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