Santu Mofokeng (1956 – 2020), Ishmael: ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, Motouleng Caves, Clarens (detail), 2004, black and white photograph on Baryta paper, edition: 1/5, 120 x 180cm


Curated by SABC art curator Koulla Xinisteris (with historian Graham Neame), Making Waves was a major survey exhibition of South African artworks spanning over a century and including an impressive range of contemporary artworks.

Aimed at bringing the SABC’s extensive art collection firmly into the public realm, the exhibition was curated according to the themes of ‘struggle, identity, street and predicament’, which provided an entry point into the realities of this country’s past and present. It ran at the Johannesburg Art Gallery from November 2004 to April 2005, at the Albany Museum during the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2006, and at Iziko Museums’ Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town in 2007.

Making Waves was amended and updated for its Grahamstown and Cape Town runs, which featured new acquisitions, including works by Alfred Thoba, Jurgen Schadeberg, David Goldblatt, Lisa Brice, Marlene Dumas and Lucas Sithole, as well as a collaborative piece by Sam Nhlengethwa and Zwelethu Mthethwa.

In response to the exhibition, leading art journal Art South Africa wrote: ‘When it comes to corporate and public art collections, the SABC collection is one of the most potent assemblies of work this country has to offer’. The Sunday Times commented: ‘Making Waves shows a consistent sensitivity to artistic quality and social relevance… In quantity and quality [it] has the critical mass needed to give an illuminating overview of our troubled history.’

The central aim of the exhibition was to ensure that it was seen by as many South Africans as possible, to raise awareness and understanding of South African art and to share the treasure that is the SABC art collection with the broader public. In its initial Johannesburg run, the exhibition was viewed by more than 20 000 people. An illustrated catalogue with an explanatory text and an alphabetical list of the artists was made available to viewers, and regular walkabouts were held at all three venues, to encourage the public to engage with the work on show at a deeper level.

In 2005 Making Waves was awarded a Business Day/BASA Award in the ‘Strategic Sponsorship’ category for ‘best use of a sponsorship programme as an integral part of the sponsor’s overall marketing strategy’. BASA’s annual awards scheme recognises and encourages excellence and innovation in the field of business support for the arts in South Africa.

Xinisteris was quoted in a special edition of Business Day, saying: ‘Making Waves is an important exhibition, not least because it spans the past 100 years and speaks of the country’s history through the art collected. No voice is excluded and there is no censorship of extreme images or angry sentiments… The SABC art collection strives to be representative across categories of race, gender, historical period, style and medium.’