Andre and Frances Guichard are the owners of Guichard Gallery of Fine Art in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville community. The mission of Guichard Galley is to exhibit and sale visual art from artists of the African Diaspora. Building Bridges is the current exhibition from the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. For over a year, the Guichard Gallery (in partnership with Tradepoint South Africa Nelson Mandela Bay) has been developing Building Bridges which aims to introduce the United States to artists of the Eastern Cape. In fact, Andre and Frances traveled to South Africa to locate artists. They visited the infamous South African Red Location Museum, the Grahamstown Art Festival, and in the South African city of Mthata. Sixteen artists with gallery ready pieces were chosen to participate in the collection.
Artist Mkhonto Gwaleza was chosen to fly to Chicago for the opening. Mkhonto is from New Brighton, a suburb of the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality of South Africa. New Brighton is the hometown of Nelson Mandela, and also known as the Red Location. It is one of the oldest Black townships of the country. The name derives from a series of red rusted iron buildings that were originally constructed as concentration camps for Boers (Afrikaan and Dutch-speaking settlers of the Eastern Cape) during the First South African War of the early Twentieth Century. However during the era of apartheid, Black South Africans were imprisoned in these structures. As a result, many anti-apartheid leaders and resistant movements developed within the walls of these camps including the former military wing of the African National Congress – umKonto we Sizwe. Gwaleza draws artistic inspiration on the camps’ history as well as the current struggles he bears witness in his community. When describing his collection entitled “Chameleon” he says, “I’ve seen Black people having to change, you know, historically, psychologically, globally, and in every way. We have to change who we are to fit in. And it’s that chameleon….it’s our God given talent to change. But we change as a defense mechanism. I’m trying to write those stories about the chameleon, but use it as a metaphor but to explain the same stories as a Black man globally. I’m trying to say, ‘Let this chameleon change because it wants to, not change as a defense mechanism.’ So, that’s the stories I’m trying to push.”
A total of 16 artists work are on display as part of the Building Bridges exhibition which will run through Oct. 13. Thereafter, the DuSable Museum of African American History will host the exhibit.