The children’s educational program was the birth of Thamgidi Studio Foundation. The art class pilot project which first started at Sithabile Mlotshwa’s home, later moved to the Thamgidi Studio, which was situated at the Aloysius and Juliana school in Huissen. Aloysius and Juliana school, the cultural heartbeat of Huissen, is a home to local and international artists. Every year the artists’ community opens its doors to the public, with the LingeW’Art Manifestatie (www.lingerwart.nl).
The LingeW’Art manifestatie is a three-day exhibition of open artists’ studios, with invited guest artists. Artists from Huissen, together with artists from around the Netherlands and international artists light up the usually quiet and peaceful village. For many years the municipal of Huissen has been actively involved in supporting the Arts by providing spaces that nurture artistic development.
It is here that Sithabile Mlotshwa, was given a studio by the Municipal of Huissen which she could use for her art projects. As a new-comer in the Netherlands and a love migrant, Sithabile was not allowed to have a normal paying job or travel for her exhibitions due to being obliged to integrate into the Dutch system.
The inability for Sithabile to work or travel for her major lined up exhibitions, being forced to assimilate and at the same time not being accepted in the Netherlands, dealt a major blow for her artistic career. Aside this, another major challenge of moving to the Netherlands was the sudden discovery that she had become exotic and with this would no longer be able to exhibit in non exotic spaces or museums.
Aware of this reality and refusing to be labeled exotic, Sithabile who had left Zimbabwe as a very successful artist, who at the time was taking the world by storm, gave up on her career as an artist and began teaching art to young people at her home. Within a few months of teaching only a handful of young people at her home, the groups began to grow forcing Sithabile to find another space, a studio where she could continue to teach.
Her classes began to generate money, money she was not allowed to earn, it is at this point that she decided to create a refuge, a place where artists considered exotic could belong. She began to dream about opening a culture centre called Ekhaya where she could run cultural projects, house artists, impart her knowledge to young people and organise exhibitions. This is how the Thamgidi Foundation was born. With her art classes growing successfully and with this more money to realize her dreams, Sithabile created the first supportive grants programs that made it possible for 3 participants to realize and present their works at the Thamgidi Studio in Huissen.
The first supportive grants were given to;
- Natasha Sladkoff – Russian artist who had moved to the Netherlands
- Cecilia Hoogmans Acosta – Mexican artist who also moved to the Netherlands due to marriage.
- Sarah Fisk – USA an American quilt maker who temporarily moved to the Netherlands due to her husband’s work.
The ability to support these women and seeing the impact this had, inspired Sithabile to work harder and through these little actions, she saw the possibility to realize her dreams.
2017 marks 11 years of Thamgidi Foundation’s existence as a non profit self funded private foundation that has to-date given more than 550.000 euros to support culture.
What Thamgidi Foundation is and does:
Supporting the arts to strengthen cross – cultural exchange”
Thamgidi Studio Foundation is a non for profit Private Foundation and artist-led organization based in the Netherlands. The values supporting the creation of Thamgidi Foundation and its mission derive from a belief of the strength reciprocity of cultures has in developing successful exchange based on mutual respect.
Founded in 2005 by visual artist Sithabile Mlotshwa from Bulawayo Zimbabwe- the foundation’s core is to support and strengthen cross – cultural exchange and to facilitate knowledge transmission through:
- Collecting and preserving contemporary art from Africa and the Diaspora
- Providing artists with opportunities that enable further artistic development and sharing of artistic practices, through our AIR program
- Knowledge building
- Supporting the artistic development and visibility of artists
- cultural operators working in the African continent and the Diaspora
- Empowering and giving more visibility to Women artists
- Facilitating cross border artists exchange within the African continent and internationally.
At Thamgidi Foundation we believe that:
Reciprocity of cultures, or the lack of it, is the subject which has a great impact on the development of societies, in the past, now and in the long run.
In order to promote communication, understanding and to connect cultures, we believe that art plays a major role.
These are the cornerstones that gave birth to Thamgidi Foundation.
Although reciprocity of cultures starts from the point of view of equality, this however is in reality not the case, even more so in the fields of Arts and Culture. The inability to exchange in a mutual way leads to failure of valuable knowledge exchange that may be transmitted by sources usually deemed the “other” or the unfamiliar. It is with this reason that Thamgidi Foundation’s priority is on strengthening cross-cultural exchange.