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First Thursdays Self-Guided Programme

Rosebank, Joburg - June 2017

First Thursdays has always been more of an unfacilitated experience, encouraging attendees to explore, discover new things, get lost. This is the first time we’ve published what one might call a “route”. We’ve mapped out a more focused programme, based on what we believe to be new exhibitions that are worth visiting. The objective of this is to encourage attendees to visit exhibitions that they might not have otherwise seen, and to facilitate more engagement with the cultural programme. What is important to note is that this is a choice. One may follow the programme strictly, or deviate from the map and discover other exhibitions and attractions along the way. This is there for those who wish to use it. 

Please note that you follow this programme at your own risk. We encourage all attendees to be vigilant, to walk in groups, and never to put yourself in situations where you do not feel safe. Enjoy the programme, and if you have any feedback get in touch at

Start at point number 1 and make your way from there. Most galleries close at 9pm, so we encourage starting by around 6pm to give yourself enough time at each exhibition. Do not rush, be in one place at one time, and most importantly, look.

If you're on your phone, follow the programme below, or download the printable version here:

1. SunshineCo - 29A Keyes Avenue

 Showing: Roger Ballen exhibition

 The Theatre of Apparitions is Roger Ballen's most recent series of photographs, published by Thames & Husdon in 2016. It is both a departure from his existing oeuvre and the culmination of his unique aesthetic linking image-making and theatrical performance. Separated into seven chapters or ‘acts’, Theatre of the Apparitions is a narrative of Ballenesque images taking readers on a deep journey into their subconscious. Inspired by the sight of hand-drawn carvings on blacked-out windows in an abandoned women’s prison, Ballen started to experiment using different spray paints on glass and then ‘drawing on’ or removing the paint with a sharp object to let natural light through. The results are like prehistoric cave-paintings: the black, dimensionless spaces on the glass are canvases onto which Ballen carves his thoughts and emotions. Fossil-like facial forms and dismembered body parts coexist uncomfortably with vaporous, ghost-like shadows. Earthly and otherworldly, physical and spiritual, Ballen has endeavoured to transcend all traditional concepts of photography while referencing movements that have changed the course of art history - namely Theatre of the Absurd and outsider art.

2. Everard Read - 6 Jellicoe Avenue

 Showing: Gary Stephens “Pleated”

 Monumental in scale, the artist’s portraits pay homage to the African traditions of hair braiding, hats, headscarves and contemporary urban style. By capturing an ornate braid pattern or the particular angle of a hat viewed from behind, the artist focuses on the iconic strengths of his models instead of their personal features. Stephens portrays women in head scarves or men wearing caps to focus attention on the power of these everyday symbols of African life. He documents the sense of style and attention people put into how they present themselves in a contemporary African setting. From a visual perspective, Stephens is constantly drawn to patterns, visual rhythms, and geometric repetitions such as textile patterns and botanical shapes. His meticulous technique of drawing in vertical stripes, pleating the paper, and using string screens gives the images a subtle visual vibration and vitality. The portraits seem to shift or dance when viewed from various angles as if capturing a slight movement or breeze instead of being solid or static. Stephens transforms the everyday people of his African life into sublimely beautiful beings that radiate an almost mythological sense of Italian classical light. He strives to reflect back the sense of joy he experiences living among a new culture and finding beauty in the people he meets.

 *From here you’ll have to find your way down to Goodman Gallery. Drive, take an uber, or if you’re up for it the walk is less than 10 minutes.

 3. Goodman Gallery - 163 Jan Smuts Avenue

 Showing: mounir fatmi "Fragmented Memory"

 A copy of the Koran.
A photograph of a Moroccan King.
A calligraphic painting.

These are the only cultural objects that mounir fatmi remembers from his childhood home in 1970s Tangier – all of which he was forbidden to touch or were positioned out of reach, but which vividly captured his imagination. In Fragmented Memory the Paris-based multimedia artist takes these objects as a starting point for his work ‘to show how the few elements of culture I had in my childhood home have shaped my artistic research, my aesthetic choices and my entire career,’ he says. fatmi adds that ‘through these objects, I draw a direct relationship to language, to memory, and to history in this show, because, for me, these three elements depend on one another: without language there is no memory and with no memory there is no history.’

In the late 1980s, fatmi left Morocco to study in Italy and Holland before settling in France. According to the artist: ‘I needed to step back from my country to be able to understand it and analyse its history.’ In Fragmented Memory fatmi furthers this personal journey by mining his memories – marking a rare autobiographical approach in his work. fatmi calls himself ‘a migrant worker’ as a result of his feeling that he is always making work from a foreign place. Navigating this uprooted position has given rise to enthralling recent work, such as Roots, a large triptych wall relief made from reels of painstakingly twisted cable wire. Through the labyrinthine arrangement of meandering roots, which reference patterns found in ancient Islamic artwork, the artist asks, ‘Just how deep can a person’s roots go?’

 4. Lizamore - 155 Jan Smuts Avenue

Showing: “Anatomic II” by Lehlogonolo Mashaba

 This exhibition continues the artist’s investigation of the combination of human anatomy and atoms. As a follow-up to Anatomic, which Mashaba exhibited at the 2016 KKNK festival, this body of work extends Mashaba deconstruction and reconstruction of elements to create figurative and abstract pieces. Through the use of atoms and abstract forms, Mashaba feeds his desire to draw parallels between the building blocks which make up human existence.

 5. Priest - 142 Jan Smuts Avenue

 Showing: ““A Romulus Rebus”

 “A Romulus Rebus” is a group exhibition that points a crooked finger at the evasive and veiled faces of empire and imperialism. From the exposed tip of the continent to every other flag bearing country the effects of a drive to conquer, unite and control is evident. Through the hands and minds of a selection of artists, “A Romulus Rebus” hopes to make manifest the indelible stigmata of old empires, to identify the lurching movements of the new empires, to scratch at the masks of its ideologies and discourses of control. Finally, to lay bare the intimate desires and fears that motivate this inhumane expression of humanity.