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Visual Arts

21 Joburg – Memories of Growing Up

A listening project by Maia Marie, Nomonde Mbusi and Mats Staub.                    

Exhibition Opening
5 July 2017, 18h00 at Gallery 1989 at the Market Photo Workshop
Maia Marie, Nomonde Mbusi and Mats Staub will reflect on the research and creation process, as well as the local and international significance of 21-Memories of Growing Up.

Gallery address
138 Lilian Ngoyi Street, Newtown, Johannesburg

Exhibition details
The exhibition runs from 5 July to 9 August 2017; is open to public Monday to Saturday: 9am – 5pm, Sunday 10am – 4pm, admission is free.

21 – Memories of Growing Up, is a work of art built from scores of individual memories. The methodology is based on asking participants to recall their coming of age: When did you turn 21?  What happened during the course of that year?  And how did you become an adult?

Initiated by Swiss artist Mats Staub, the project has been given a home in South Africa by Maia Marie and Nomonde Mbusi.

The artists first sit down with each of the participants to record their stories. Three months later, they return to film the storytellers listening to the edited audio recordings of their own memories for the first time. The resultant work produces a powerful identification between the viewer and the subject, and stands as a profound meditation on memory and storytelling, and what it means to be human.

Since 2012, when Staub first discussed these questions with the residents of an old age home in Frankfurt, he has travelled the globe and held conversations with people of all ages and backgrounds in Germany, Switzerland, Serbia, Austria, England, Holland and now South Africa.

For the South African edition of 21, Staub departed from his normal practice by working with local collaborators Mbusi and Marie. He introduced them to his listening methodology and they collaboratively produced nine portraits. Mbusi and Marie subsequently produced a further ten portraits.

21 Joburg brings together two bodies of work: 19 portraits of people who live in Joburg, in English, isiZulu, isiXhosa and seSotho, as well as a selection of portraits from people who live in different European cities.


Maia Marie runs creative learning projects dealing with identity, history and the exploration of self.  Her work combines analytical methods with storytelling and creative writing.  She works with children and adults in a range of different settings including schools, NGOs and public parks. She is also the co-founder of Create, an arts education project based in Westdene Johannesburg.

Nomonde Mbusi is as an actress, scriptwriter, voice artist and human rights activist. In 2004 she founded Insika Productions (formerly known as Black Onyx Productions), where she works as artistic director. Through Insika, she has organised, facilitated and directed a number of Creative Arts Healing workshops for women who have survived abuse. She has worked with People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA), Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), Usindiso Women’s Shelter, Themba HIV/AIDS Organisation, Inkanyiso Organisation and others.

Mats Staub is based in Berlin.  He studied theatre, journalism and religious studies in Berne, Fribourg and Berlin, and has worked as a journalist for various publications (1996–2001) and as a dramatic advisor at the Neumarkt Theater, Zurich (2002–2004).  Since 2004 he practises as an artist at the intersection of theatre and exhibition, science, journalism and literature.


As a school of photography, a gallery, and a project space, the Market Photo Workshop has played a pivotal role in the training of South Africa’s photographers, ensuring that visual literacy reaches neglected and marginalized parts of our society. Since it was founded in 1989 by world-renowned photographer David Goldblatt, the Photo Workshop has been an agent of change and representation, informing photographers, visual artists, educators, student and broader communities of trends, issues and debates in photography and visual culture.

Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, with Pro Helvetia Zurich, have supported the research, development, and presentation of the 21 project in South Africa. In Cape Town 21 – Memories of Growing Up will run from 20 May to 25 June at the District Six Homecoming Centre and in Johannesburg 21 Joburg – Memories of Growing Up will run from 5 July to 9 August at the Market Photo Workshop.

Concept | Mats Staub
Collaboration in South Africa | Maia Marie, Nomonde Mbusi
Camera | Sifiso Khanyile, Matthias Stickel
Sound | Mandla Nkuna, Andrea Brunner
Scenography | Monika Schori
Translation | David Tushingham
Technical Support| Edmund Gatshenie
Head of production | Maia Marie, Elisabeth Schack
Production | zwischen_produktionen

Co-producer | Künstlerhaus Mousonturm Frankfurt, Festival Theaterformen Hannover, Museum für Kommunikation Bern, Gessnerallee Zürich, Kunstfest Weimar, Kaserne Basel, Wiener Festwochen, Theater Freiburg, Noorderzon Festival Groningen

21 – Memories of Growing Up (Cape Town) and 21 Joburg – Memories of Growing Up (Johannesburg) have been made possible with the financial support of Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council; Ernst Göhner Stiftung; Migros-Kulturprozent; Stadt Zürich Kultur; and Kanton Zürich Fachstelle Kultur.

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