'Entrance fees': Black youth and access to artistic production in Gqeberha, South Africa

Main Article Content

Marta Montanini
Xolisa Ngubelanga


The arts sector in South Africa is portrayed as a multiracial, emancipatory and inclusive sector that promises to reduce youth unemployment and to mitigate inequality. In post- apartheid art institutions, artistic merit and perseverance are deemed to be sufficient in order to access the art sector and its market. The paths of individual black artists from poor areas who have succeeded in accessing the institutional art circuit are praised by the media, policymakers and curators. A romanticisation of their efforts is coupled with identifying them as role models for younger generations.

Despite emphasis on the inclusivity of the art sector and the hailing of successful paths, black artists report a long-standing difficulty in gaining access to, and being fully accredited in, the institutional art circuit. The ambiguity of the art sector, which claims to be inclusive in word but is de facto exclusionary, deeply affects young black artists whose first steps into the art sector are often accompanied by a feeling of uneasiness and bewilderment.

Drawing on the multivocal accounts of the everyday life of young black artists who work in the field of performance art in Gqeberha, this article unveils the ‘entrance fees’ that black artists have to negotiate in order to access the institutional art circuit, i.e. the obstacles they have to overcome, but also the deals and concessions they have to make in order to build their career and be fully recognised as artists.

Moreover, the article sheds light on a double invisibility in the performing arts sector: on one side the economic, spatial and reputational obstacles that artists deal with are dismissed as part of the everyday life of individuals coming from marginal areas; on the other side, the performing arts and spaces that young black artists create within alternative or complementary circuits are not considered part of the city’s artistic production.

Article Details

Research articles (Refereed)