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Johannesburg | South Africa
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1.3.2021   |  Art And About Africa

About Candice Allison

We – at Art and About Africa – had the pleasure of interviewing Candice Allison, a contemporary art curator, writer, and current director of the Bag Factory in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Her story is a straightforward and concrete example of what it means to “live by art”, to be guided and animated by such major passion for art and to work so hard to be able to turn this engaging life-long passion into a real job, until, in her case, she has no longer seen a difference between the two.

We talked about what was at the time the decisive step that changed her existence. We also discussed the accomplishments she achieved from a personal and professional point of view and, the future goals she and the Bag Factory are planning to achieve. She enriched us with her testimony as a “woman in a leadership position” and we are confident it will be so for you.

AAAA: Why and when did you start working in the art sector?
CA: I started working in the art sector in 2008, after completing a BA Hons in Visual Studies. Technically I was working in the corporate sector in London, but I was also volunteering with the visitor services team at Tate Modern on the weekends. Fast forward a few years, and I left the corporate world behind to study an MA in Curating, which I completed in 2011. The following year I returned to South Africa, and I have been working in the not-for-profit art sector ever since.

AAAA: Tell us something that you have done that makes you proud of and what is the next goal you are pursuing.
CA: Deciding to leave the corporate sector to follow my passion for the arts was a life-changing decision for me, and one that I have no regrets about. Not every day is easy, but every single day I know that I am doing what I love. Joining the Bag Factory and the work I have done here also makes me proud. We develop long-term relationships with artists to develop and support them towards taking the next step in their careers. It is hugely rewarding when an artist puts in the work and their career takes off as a result.

The next goal I am slowly working towards is a PhD in the Department of History at the University of the Western Cape. I am researching museum and curatorial ethics in post-apartheid South Africa, which also feeds into the current discourse around decolonizing museums and collections. Curators often deal with complex and nuanced subjects, and when we encounter ethical dilemmas we can grow and develop our profession by being more transparent about our thought processes and decision making. Sometimes we get it wrong, and it’s important to be reflective and open about learning through failure.

AAAA: How would you describe your experience of being a woman director in the art sector?
CA: I feel like it is fairly normalized for women to be heading up visual arts organizations in South Africa. Currently, it does seem fairly balanced in terms of gender, especially across the not-for-profit art sector, but it is ongoing work to ensure that the whole sector represents the diverse demographic of South Africa. As a woman in a leadership position, it is my responsibility to mentor and empowers the next generation of womxn leaders.

AAAA: What is a research or a project that you are working on at the moment?
CA: At the Bag Factory, we are currently working on our 30th-anniversary exhibition which will open in April this year (2021). We are looking through our archives to highlight key moments in the organization’s history and celebrate the artists and supporters who have been part of the Bag Factory’s continued legacy.

We are also about to embark on a major capital campaign project to renovate and upgrade the building. In the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown, the Bag Factory was able to secure its future by purchasing the building it has called home since 1991. The building is in urgent need of repair, which we need to address now to continue serving future generations of artists.

 

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“About Candice Allison” is part of the column “Women” dedicated to the women involved in the art scene on and about the African continent.

The aim of the column is to give space to women – in or connected – to the continent’s art scene. A space in which experiences, opinions and realities can be read and loved by everyone, focused on women and their empowerment.

If you know of any woman that should take part please invite her to get in touch. Thank you, we appreciate your contribution.

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