Matisse outreach drive brings art to life for pupils

As part of the Matisse outreach drive, First Councellor of the French Embassy in South Africa, Charlotte Montel and Director of the French Institute in South Africa, Marion Claudel visited Emseni Primary School in Soweto on Wednesday 8 June 2016.
On Wednesday 15 June 2016,French Ambassador to South Africa, Elisabeth Barbier, Chief Executive of Standard Bank Group, Ben Kruger and General Manager of Total South Africa, Pansy Mekwa visited Leitsibolo Primary School in Soweto.

The French modernist master Henri Matisse drew inspiration from African art and in turn inspired key South African artists, and this genius will be shared with learners from 46 previously disadvantaged schools ahead of the Henri Matisse | Rhythm and Meaning exhibition at Johannesburg’s Standard Bank Gallery from 13 July to 17 September 2016. (Read an article about this exhibition).



In June, an Art Bus will be travelling to 10 Soweto primary schools, where 10 student teachers from the University of Johannesburg will be conducting morning art workshops. As part of the outreach programme, learners will also be presented with exquisite educational workbooks, inspired by Matisse’s artworks and motifs and designed specially for this exhibition.

Between 1 and 21 June, the Art Bus will visit Bafikile, Hlakaniphani, Moriting, Sbongile, Emseni, Itemogele, Mochochonono, Leitsibolo, Molaetsa and Tshebidisanong primary schools, bringing the magic of art to life for young minds.

In addition, for the duration of the Rhythm and Meaning exhibition, learners from 20 more township schools will be brought to the Standard Bank Gallery for guided walkabouts. They will also be treated to a cut-out workshop, echoing one of the techniques for which Matisse is renowned and which he called “painting with scissors”.

Teachers from an additional 16 Soweto primary schools will be mentored in paper cut-out art, in order to share this skill with their young wards.

Learners from all the primary schools will receive the beautiful workbooks, crammed with stimulating creative activities.


The workbooks refer in depth to the central work in the exhibition, the 20 impressions for the prints in Matisse’s book Jazz, while also drawing attention to his distinctive use of colour and his impact on South African contemporary artists such as Walter Battiss and Sam Nhlengethwa. The interactive exercises are themed around Matisse’s works (many of which are featured in the exhibition), including the drawing of masks and the designing of a “pop-up” room.

Wilhelm van Rensburg, co-curator of the educational component of the Matisse exhibition, explains : “The workbook develops an intellectual understanding of art concepts, and encourages practical art-making skills. For example, we use Matisse’s famous cut-out work, The Snail (Tate Modern, London), which he based on the spiral shape of the ‘z’ in the word ‘Jazz’ that he wrote out by hand, as the basis of a series of cut-out animals and insects that the learners do practically in class.”

Adds Standard Bank educational officer Joseph Rampa, who is also leading this schools initiative : “In keeping with our long-standing commitment to arts development, Standard Bank is excited about bringing Matisse’s artistry to Soweto’s schoolchildren.

“Matisse is known for boldly forging a new 20th-century visual language, and his pioneering spirit is being explored in a lively and vivid way through this outreach programme. We hope to cultivate in the learners – and other children who attend the exhibition – an interest in and appreciation of art that will hopefully take root and endure, and go on to greatly enrich their future cultural lives.”

The Henri Matisse | Rhythm and Meaning exhibition is co-curated by Patrice Deparpe, Director of the Musée Matisse in Nice, France, and Federico Freschi, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg.

It marks the first major showcase of Matisse’s art on the African continent, and is the fourth exhibition of important 20th-century European modernists to be held at the Standard Bank Gallery, which has previously hosted monographic exhibitions focusing on the work of Marc Chagall, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso.

The exhibition will include a number of paintings, drawings, collages and prints covering all the dominant themes in the artist’s body of work, from his early Fauvist years, through his interest in exoticism and orientalism, to the paper cut-outs that he produced in the last years of his life.

Henri Matisse | Rhythm and Meaning is presented by Standard Bank in partnership with the Embassy of France in South Africa and the French Institute of South Africa, and with the support of Matisse Museum Le Cateau-Cambresis, Air France, Total and Air Liquide.

Press release from Total Exposure

publie le 13/07/2016

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