August 2022

A fresh approach to elevating contemporary African art

in Experience

A fresh approach to elevating contemporary African art

Over the past three decades, Singita has forged deep and enduring relationships with the communities surrounding our concessions, lodges and camps; and the vibrant cultures that define each region are integral to every property’s design, food journey and more.

Another tangible way to experience the creative energy and talent of each location is through our rich and layered art and design offering – and this inspiring part of our guest experience has seen a significant evolution over the past year to align it even more closely with our intention to promote connection, conservation and meaningful travel.

The launch of Singita’s first new dedicated gallery space in Singita Sabi Sand in late 2021 marked the start of a new era. It embodies a growing relationship between Singita and the contemporary African art world. The second, which has just opened at Singita Kruger National Park, signals the next exciting step in this journey. Curator Kimberley Cunningham, of Cunningham Contemporary, spearheaded these new spaces with Singita’s goals in mind – to consciously celebrate African art, while remaining true to our conservation roots.

Our second dedicated gallery space – at Singita Kruger National Park – signals the next step in our relationship with contemporary African art

Underpinned by culture & conservation

The Singita art concept and its expanding programme was born out of a desire to find further ways to support conservation while creating a platform to showcase contemporary art from across the continent. “We are fortunate through the gallery projects to be custodians of the diverse cultures of Africa and to be able to share these important stories through creative practices,” says Kimberley.

She points out that for many international visitors, Singita’s lodges are a portal – sometimes their only experience on a trip to Africa – into the contemporary African art market. “By situating the galleries in the lodge spaces, we invite guests to meaningfully connect with the artwork and artists through the exhibition programming and artist residencies. Each gallery will have its own personality, reflected in the different design aesthetics of the lodges, and each visit will be unique.”

By showcasing both pre-eminent and emerging artists in the spaces, Singita hopes to not only offer an introduction to the continent’s world-class talent, but to also serve as a catalyst to create memories through the rich cultural experience the artworks offer.

Our dedicated spaces will expose international visitors to the wealth of talent on the continent, while supporting crucial conservation and community programmes

The new face of the Lebombo gallery

The most recent space to undergo an evolution was the gallery at Singita Kruger National Park (home to Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges), which has just reopened after an extensive refurbishment to retrofit it to align with the new concept. With its high ceilings, natural light and glass walls blurring the boundaries between indoors and out, the space had all the ingredients of a gallery while also situating you in your surroundings.

“While walking around the gallery, one might glance to the world outside and witness a family of elephants on their morning stroll. The context of where the galleries are situated is just as significant as the curatorial decisions and exhibition design,” says Kimberley.

The setting of our gallery spaces – in the African wilderness – offers an entirely fresh context and new way to experience contemporary art

The location of the galleries – in the midst of nature – are an important differentiator to the traditional gallery model. “It allows the space to be one that is flexible and experimental. Guests are welcomed with loving arms and an excitement to share our cultural legacy, unlike many city-based gallery spaces that can at times feel austere or inaccessible.”

Our artist residence programme will extend this idea. “We want to make meaningful connections between the guests and the artists by being able to share their stories and philosophies directly. We want the spaces to be a celebration of the magic of Africa,” adds Kimberley.

The inaugural show for the Lebombo gallery was born out of the layered concept of ‘home’. Entitled Can you touch all the places you call home?, Kimberley has sought to create an exhibition that guests could connect with on a very personal level. “Through the COVID years, we’ve globally called into question the meaningful aspects of life, and have come to understand that home means more than just a place. It can be a feeling, a person, a sense of belonging or perhaps even something we hold deep within ourselves.”

The second facet to this exhibition was a focus on touch. “Again, this is something we had to limit over the last two years. But similar to a safari, the lived experience of an exhibition far outweighs that of its digital counterpart, and we wanted to emphasize the tactile nature of this through the material consideration of the artworks.”

The inaugural show at the Singita Kruger National Park gallery 'Can you touch all the places you call home?' explores our notion of home, as well as the tactile experience we lost during COVID

A blank canvas

Kimberley’s excitement about the open-ended possibilities of these spaces includes an appreciation for the fact that nothing like this has ever really been done before. “The heart of the project lies within genuine collaboration and working with the great minds of the art industry.”

This approach allows Singita the freedom to keep pushing the boundaries – both creating a space for experimentation as well as a world-class showcase of art. “Just like the experience of the bush is organic and unpredictable, I want the galleries to reflect that energy and be authentically true to the present moment,” she says.

By Julia Freemantle

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