Since South Africa is celebrating Heritage Day tomorrow on Saturday, 24 September, let me take you down memory lane about what I did in my previous life as a side hustle in the cultural circles in Yeoville, Johannesburg. I established Maitisong Concepts, an independent multidisciplinary in January 2001 to, inter alia, provide `space’ to both visual and literary artists coming from the previously disenfranchised communities. The four interdependent layers of this initiative were Maitisong Art Gallery, Maitisong Productions, Maitisong Communications and Maitisong Publishing. The synergistic relationship between the four entities was solidly grounded on the cross functional teams managing them, and each entity’s core function being provided to others as their required non-core service. These could be explained as follows: 

  • Maitisong Art Gallery: Promoted and marketd art produced by mainly black artists among mainly black South Africans (both at their homes and in corporate environment). Provided mainly black artists with both exhibition and working spaces. Promoted the use of art as learning and teaching tool in both classroom and non-classroom situations. Provided its sister companies with illustrations/images necessary to add value to the assignments they undertake for their clients (which include commercial book publishers).
  • Maitisong Productions: Made theatre and television productions. Inculcated a culture of appreciation for the African theatre and television (in the light of the `Hollywood’ onslaught). Promoted African theatre and television by holding workshops with the neighbourhood youth (we were then contracted to the Film Resource Unit to market videos of African films). Developed scripts out of Africa’s literary classics (we developed a script for a feature film out of Mhudi, the first English novel to be written by an African in Africa, and many years later I am fundraising for its production into a cartoon strip plus a full epic movie. The script development phase for Mhudi was funded by the Department of Arts, Culture, Science & Technology in 1999). 
  • Maitisong Communications: Specialised in corporate communication’s strategy development and implementation. Media monitoring and analysis. Undertook activities aimed at the creation of a favourable image of the company. Development and management of corporate identity. Management/Production of corporate channels, including Brochures, Newsletters and Annual Reports. Relationship management. Event management. Excluding its sister companies, some of Maitising Communications’ clients included Tswaing Consulting.
  • Maitisong Publishing: Specialised with publishing strategy development and implementation. Promoted the opportunities of an e-book in Africa in line with world-wide developments in e-publishing. Encouraged opportunities of book development as a communication/marketing channel. Developed innovative marketing strategies for literature. Uncovered new black writing and provided mainly black authors with literary agency services.

Though Maitisong only gained shape as a multidisciplinary initiative only in January 2001,  its roots went  back to 1997 when I launched Third Cinema Productions. As part of its mission to carry out objectives outlined under Maitisong Productions, the company went further to export videos of African cinema to foreign universities such as the University of Bristol in the UK, and local universities such as the then University of the North. It opened a shop in Yeoville, in which only cinema from Africa and the diaspora were marketed. Later African art and literature were added to the Company’s portfolio. Workshops were organised in partnerships with an international publisher on writing with the youth. The media supported this initiative (see Since most of the youths who attended the workshops came from Soweto, the Company moved to Soweto and opened an outlet at the Hector Pieterson Memorial Site, in partnership with the Soweto Heritage Trust (SHT). The move broadened the Company’s market to include direct access to the visiting international tourists. 

When the SHT secured funding from the Standard Bank to erect proper buildings on  the site, all companies were asked to temporarily vacate the premises in November 2000.  It was this decision that prompted the Company to move back to town. The Company went further to rethink its strategy and redefine its core business (based on its activities since its launch). The decision was to move away from the narrow “cinema” focus, and have a name that will reflect the multidisciplinary content of the Company’s programmes. Then Third Cinema Productions cc was relaunched as Maitisong Concepts – Art Gallery, Productions, Communications & Publishing – in  January 2001.

Omenana: A Travelling Multidisciplinary Arts Project

Visual Art exhibitions

Omenana: The Journey of Afrikan Art Through the Ages was a series of traveling exhibitions launched by Maitisong Art Gallery on 26 May 2001. Each exhibition in the series was given a sub-title, while the overriding title remained Omenana: The Journey of Afrikan Art Through the Ages. The first exhibition in the series was sub-titled “Afrika Day”, as part of the Africa Day celebrations. It featured a partnership between the South African, but Eastern Cape-based, Selemogo Maleho, and his Nigerian counterpart, Ozor-Ejike Ezefuna. 

The two-month long exhibition in Yeoville/Bellevue was a success: It’s Registry Book recorded 51 visitors – who excluded hundreds of passersby and youths from the neighbourhood who were dropping in and out to be part of this unique cultural experience. This figure also excludes over 100 people who came to the exhibition opening night – these were captured by e-TV’s SA City Life art magazine programme. Some of the key visitors to the Gallery included Maurice Smithers, a leading Yeoville community activist. The Registry Book also included Siphiwe Ngwenya, ANC’s Provincial Secretary in the North West (“Very impressive artwork, it is the beginning of a role to be played in our African Renaissance programme.”), an ordinary Yeovillite, Lily Leibovitz (“I’ll come again and again.”), one of the leading Arts Journalists, Bongani Madondo, Botsotso’s Allan Holski Howitz (“Interesting mix of the realistic and the surreal! Welcome to Aferika Borwa!”) and one of the leading cultural activists and practitioners in the country,  Fitzroy Ngcukana (he chose not to write his comments, but continued to ask the artists to come up with proposals for partnership with him). There were also some visitors from abroad – mainly France.

The mass media also gave the artists an immense coverage. This included both print and electronic media. The latter included Artslink’s Artzone (, the now-defunct Jol (, the UK-based Timeout (, artthrob  and Rage (  e-TV’s magazine programme, SA City Life, premiered with the coverage of the opening night on 7 June 2001. Subsequent to this, Red Pepper Pictures, an independent production company, followed up with four inserts based on four of our artists – namely, Nico Phooko, Selemogo Maleho, Ozor Ejike and Julius “Makweru” Moeletsi –  for e-TV’s Craze-e programme. The inserts were flighted from August 13 to 16.

The radio also supported the initiative. SAFM’s Artmatters also had a live interview with me on 22 April 2001. The programme later interviewed Selemogo Maleho on 14 September 2001, on the exhibition move to the Tswaing Crater and later interviewed me in May 2002. The print media which gave coverage to the exhibition  included the Saturday Star’s Travel supplement, The Star’Tonight supplement, Pretoria News, the CitizenCity Press and the Mail & Guardian. These interviews helped in promoting us as a business and entrenching our brand as an independent entity. 

The second exhibition in the series was a week-long multidisciplinary tribute to women which was mounted at the Tswaing Crater Museum, outside Pretoria. This became the week of a festival of literary experiences comprised of art exhibition and poetry performances. Artists featured were the Maitisong crew, joined by Julia Maleho, a young fierce woman poet who hailed from Parys, in the Free State. 

The move to Pretoria lived up to the philosophical conceptualisation of Omenana. The move also represented the desire by two leading Maitisong exponents to plough back to the communities that made them what they were then.

The Omenana: The Journey of Afrikan Art Through the Ages was not the first exhibition to be mounted by Maitisong Art Gallery. The first was the 1976 – 2000 collection of the world-renowned performance artist Gamakhulu Diniso. Launched on 25 January 2001, this successful exhibition ran for a month at the previous premises of the Gallery at The Jungle Connection in Doornfontein. The exhibition also received extensive coverage in the mass media.

*** The young Julius ”Makweru” Moeletsi: the godfather of performance poetry in Johannesburg. Also illustrating this article are the images of the artworks by Nico Phooko ***

Performance & Literary Arts

Maitisong Art Gallery’s sister project, Maitisong Productions (which specialised with Theatre and Television Productions) launched a children’s reading programme, Kwasukasukela. Every Saturday children joined me in reading sessions. These story-telling sessions were based on the Heinemann Junior African Writers Series (JAWS) – the prestigious list based on both traditional and contemporary African tales and fables, which included my children’s reader, Thulani’s Magic Water. I have reclaimed my copyright on this publication from Heinemann Publishers and will be publishing it as part of Brandhill Africa’s “Magic Series” comprised of six children’s readers.

The children’s reading programme was taken to Johannesburg pre- and primary schools including King David’s Primary in Linksfield for their literacy day event on 2 September 2001. I also featured a Kenyan storyteller, Steven Otieno, as a co-performer.

To watch the one-hour video of the episodes on developing a culture of reading which was flighted on e-TV from 16 September 2001, please click here.

This programme also received press coverage from The Star’s Tonight.

The Tswaing Crater: `Ye are the salt of the earth’[1]

Tswaing, meaning a place of salt in Setswana, is a satellite of the National Cultural History Museum (NCHM). It is a 2000 hectare site, some 40km North West of Pretoria, surrounded by settlements such as Winterveldt, Mmotla and Soshanguve which are inhabited by more than a million people. The main features of this site are a 220 000 year old meteorite impact crater, a marsh area, a variety of ecosystems, and the remains of a factory that produced soda-ash and salt. 

In geological terms, Tswaing Crater represents one of the youngest and best preserved small bowl-shaped meteorite impact craters in the world. The crater is known, both nationally and internationally, as the Pretoria Saltpan (or Zoutpan Crater). It constitutes a sensitive and unique conservation area for the careful management of its multiple cultural and natural resources, in the disciplines of geology, the environmental sciences, biology and human history. 

It has been  developed by the NCHM. It places strong emphasis on the protection and use of the area’s heritage for purposes of research, education, recreation and community empowerment. All this is done in close consultation with local people, scientists and conservation-oriented institutions.

The Gallery gave more colour through its arts and culture programme to this historical sites. But above all else, it made the arts more accessible to the people from the surrounding villages. Besides the Gallery’s arts and culture programme, visitors to the site also experienced the following:

  • Guided or unguided excursions to the crater and surroundings;
  • Displays on Tswaing’s natural and cultural history;
  • Educational programmes for school groups;
  • Tswaing’s indigenous African cattle, some of which are of the Natal Nguni type descending from the white cattle belonging to the Zulu royal house;
  • One of the best birdwatching sites near Pretoria, which has over 320 bird species;
  • The 7,2km Tswaing Crater Trail, South Africa’s first and only walking trail in and around a meteorite impact crater – you could walk on your own, or go on a guided tour;
  • And 420 floral species.

Aims and Objectives of the Omenana Project

With the advent of the post-apartheid education system, aptly titled Outcomes-Based Education (OBE), Arts and Culture has been described as one of the eight Learning Areas which educators have to concentrate on. Unfortunately, the current pool of teachers are still battling with the inadequacies of apartheid teacher-training, which essentially denied them the opportunity to formally study `Art and Culture’ as an independent study from Language, Literacy and Communication. So since the implementation of OBE in 1996, we’ve seen educators trying very hard not just to deal with lack of proper training regarding the philosophical grounding of OBE, but also struggling with their lack of skills to teach Art and Culture as per the requirement of the new curriculum. This obviously impacts negatively on the quality of education they receive. And this is where Maitisong Art Gallery’s Omenana: The Journey of Afrikan Art Through the Ages programme comes in: 

  • to bridge the existing gap between overzealous creativity of the learners and the lack of confidence among the educators to teach `Art and Culture’ as a Learning Programme;
  • educating/Informing the learners about the significance of environmental conservation;
  • developing in them a sense of appreciation of the arts;
  • enhancing their skills in painting, story-telling and poetry; 
  • to harness the learners’ creative energies;
  • uncovering their talent, advancing the talent already discovered, and affording them the opportunity to acquire skills which they may never have  acquired (if one looks at the conditions prevalent in the previously DET education schools: the poor quality of teaching and the obstacles as outlined above).
  • helping the learners (and the educators) recognise the significance of the arts as a medium of teaching and learning.

Perhaps it is significant to emphasise that the Gallery’s project was not intending to be a formal education programme, but it remained a community environmental education initiative. 

While it taught environmental education through the arts, it also endeavoured to redress the apparent marginalisation of Arts and Culture in the curriculum (through lack of teaching expertise, its marriage with Life Orientation in both the Foundation and the Intermediate Phases). The marginalisation could also be seen through the confinement of the teaching of poetry and story-telling in particular, and literature in general, to the Language, Literacy and Communication Learning Areas. The Gallery’s programme was aimed at liberating these art genres and putting them into the mainstream of the arts. We hoped this could, in the long run, contribute to the inculcation of a culture of reading – in which reading was established as a national pastime as opposed to its current cow-webbed link to school/academic examination preparation. 

Outline of the Programme

So we’re planning to revisit this programme. This will be an inter-provincial programme that will take place in five primary schools in villages/townships around the Tswaing Crater Museum. These will be Mmotla, Winterveldt, Eersterus, Soshanguve and Mabopane.

  • A series of workshops on poetry and story-telling with 10 learners who are doing well or have shown interest or have potential (in essay-writing) in their school. These could be found by looking at those who are good essay writers or could retell stories well.
  • A series of painting with 10 learners who have shown interest in art. These are often discovered through the illustrations they make in their poetry books.

All the works produced by the learners will have a central theme of environmental awareness and conservation centred on the Tswaing Crater. This is further linked with a biblical symbolism of “ye are the salt of the earth”. Children will find it easier to identify with the symbolism of the salt since they all use it on daily basis.

Training with the learners will be done in partnership with their educators, and it will take six months. It takes place after the normal school hours, from 13h00 to 17h00, Monday to Friday.

At the end of each month, the Gallery crew will be leaving the school with pieces of art painted by the learners, short stories and poems written by them.

Then the programme will go to the next school. We are hoping to be working with five schools over a six-month programme – starting December. The trainers will be spending the first two weeks of of December with the learners at the Tswaing Crater chalets, working hard to give them the basics. Then they’ll all go into recess, and the learners will start developing new art, stories and poetry based on their experiences of the Tswaing crater.

On the sixth month, we’ll publish a collection of poetry, short stories and paintings done by the learners. The book will be illustrated with drawings made by the learners. The book launch will be linked with the opening night of the exhibition of the learners’ paintings. The exhibition will be mounted for a month at the Tswaing Crater Museum.

Post-launch funding reservoirs

Once the book and art exhibitions are launched, the project will require minimal funding from its partners for the programme to be established in other schools around the Tswaing Crater Museum because it will be generating its own income from book and painting sales. The book will be distributed through PSD, a warehousing, marketing and sales book agency that has an excellent relationship with various bookshops. The Gallery will also be marketing books and paintings to their corporate clients. (An exhaustive sales and marketing strategy for both could be provided on preliminary approval of the sponsorship).

Financial beneficiaries of the project

The schools from which the learners come from and the learners themselves will earn royalties from the revenue generated by book and painting sales. From each painting sold, the school will get a slice of the revenue generated. The rest will go ploughed back into the next year’s programme. For revenue coming from book sales, the participating schools will earn royalties. 

Benefits for Sponsors

Sponsors will be acknowledged on all the promotional materials the Gallery will be publishing and distributing. These include the brochures, the banners, and the press releases the Gallery will be sending to various media. The main sponsor will also enjoy the opportunity of having this project named after them (for example, XXXXXXX/Brandhill Africa Art Environmental Education Programme at the Tswaing Crater). This acknowledgement will be carried through in the imprint and the title pages and the outside back cover of the book .

Already we have a healthy relationship with the mainstream media.

The art project will be managed by Selemogo Maleho. He is an award-winning painter, a former Maitisong Art Gallery’s co-Curator and a member of the Management Board. A self-taught artist, as a teenager he won cast into national stardom when he won the first prize in the Sowetan Art Competition. He attended classes offered by Wits University’s Centre for Continuing Education to hone his artistic skills. As a graphics artist, he designed the car registration plates for all the nine provinces, and those of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has illustrated articles published in Learn & Teach magazine, and a health and safety manual published by Learn & Teach Publications for the National Union of Mineworkers. His highlight in the world of book illustrations is his portrait of Nelson Mandela on the cover of Madiba! – an isiZulu epic poem written by Sabelo Zulu and published by Heinemann Publishers. He joined forces with Saul Molobi – Head of the Office of the Premier’s Provincial Communication Services in Limpopo in 2005 – and he was the creative genius behind the reconfiguration of brand Limpopo from ”Africa’s garden of Eden” into the re-engineered “the heartland of southern Africa” – a brand positioning which is still be used today. An advocate for the branding of cities as they are at the coalface of service delivery, he developed the brand development of Greater Tubatse and positioned it as ”South Africa’s first democratic platinum city”. His first major exhibition was Maitisong Art Gallery’s Omenana: The Journey of the African Arts Through the Ages. Previously, he made banners and posters for the Anti-Bophuthatswana Campaign, SACP and various anti-apartheid organisations. He owns a graphics company, Selemogo Graphics. 

Any conscientious corporate willing to make a difference in our children’s lives by participating in this project, please send an email to

Enjoy your weekend.

Saul Molobi (FCIM)

Publisher: Jambo Africa Online
Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer: Brandhill Africa™

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[1] Matthews 5:13