Runner up - Postcard from Germany

Residency programmes exist so that creative people from various disciplines can escape their day-to-day environments and obligations for a time, and temporarily immerse themselves in their work. While many artists love to be in the thick of things it can be difficult to focus on work without distractions, so a residency gives artists the time and space to experiment with new ideas and work uninterrupted. Sthenjwa Luthuli, runner up in this year’s Sasol New Signatures competition, is currently in Germany on an artist-in-residence programme and was fortunate enough to make it back to South Africa for the prize giving on the 30th of August 2017. We sat down with him to find out more about his residency.

"I have been fortunate to be granted a residency under the umbrella of the Bremen Kunststipendium (Art Stipendium) and am based in Bremen for three months. I heard about this great opportunity from a colleague and submitted my application which consisted of my biography and samples of my work. The final selection is made by a board based in Germany.

The cities of Bremen and Durban have been connected through town twinning for many years and in 2011 this friendship was turned into an official city partnership. Bremen is a city in northwest Germany and it is a really interesting place - completely different from Durban where I come from.  I would recommend visiting the Town Hall which is one of Germany's most beautiful town halls and a UNESCO World heritage site. Another really exciting place to explore is St. Peter’s Cathedral which features medieval crypts and twin spires. This is not my first time living overseas and I love getting to experience new places and cultures. It is very inspirational on a personal and artistic level.

As a bit of background, The Bremer Heimstiftung (State Parliament) runs this programme which is open to professional artists from any of the twin towns of the city of Bremen. The grant from the City of Bremen is awarded two or three times a year for a period of either three or five months.  There are no age restrictions and the grant is directed at the discipline of Fine Arts including painting, drawing, graphics, sculpture, photography, video and installation and Mixed Media.

I must say my overall experience has been amazing but I do struggle with the weather (very different from the sub-tropical, balmy Durban climate) and the German language is a difficult skill to pick up. Luckily English is widely spoken so I have been able to manage to communicate. The Bremer Heimstiftung runs 20 residential- and nursing homes in Bremen for about 3000 senior citizens. The grant allows me a private studio in one of these old age homes. It is a private space built to accommodate artists from around the world and consists of a studio, workshop/kitchen, one bedroom and a bathroom. My grant also includes additional financial aid for monthly costs, free access to the public transport system and  free entrance into all museums plus free tickets for the theatre and  opera. So I have a great opportunity to experience the city with its rich culture and heritage. What I have learned is that people are all the same it's just a matter of different background and culture. I see now how much South Africa has to do in terms of nation building.
I’ve met such a range of interesting and talented artists since arriving here and I have the choice to collaborate if I want to. I have formed friendships and had the chance to consider professional collaborations. I think being in Germany has raised my profile and given me the opportunity to network with other artists, curators and lecturers. I’m really looking forward to participating in an exhibition here, which will mark the end of my time in Bremen."