Goethe-Institut South Africa and the Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA) have opened a communal art space in Johannesburg called LAPA.

LAPA is a collaborative residency space that will promote regional exchange in Africa and present new opportunities for mutual learning, growth and change. LAPA came into fruition as a result of more than a decade of the Goethe-Institut and VANSA’s working relationship. The pan-African artist residency is located in Johannesburg’s Brixton suburb and marks a progressive shift between the two cultural organisations. 

“LAPA is a place to gather for collaboration, experimentation and developing new trajectories in artistic practice,” a joint statement reads. “LAPA makes an immediate connection with community and asks what kind of potential could we encourage when we are housed together. Enacting the term LAPA, the residency becomes a space of communing, gathering in a ‘home’ which can encourage restorative sensibilities for community.” 

Residencies are critical support structures for artists and art professionals. The launch of LAPA will be followed by a call designed for two artists based in South Africa. In 2022, the call will extend to other African countries, the two organisations said.

Goethe-Institut’s regional director of cultural programmes for sub-Saharan Africa, Asma Diakité, said the idea of creating a new place for experimentation grew slowly and organically.

“From the beginning, this idea was linked to the need to go beyond the institutional framework and, together with a partner, to get as close as possible to the artists, their needs and to what triggers their work,” Diakité said.

“From the moment we were all forced to work virtually, face-to-face encounters were hardly possible. Culture and art took place almost exclusively online and we knew that it was now more important than ever to strengthen the physical space and the space of communing. With and in LAPA, we would like to dig deeper and understand how artistic exchange in the physical space creates a sense of home, belonging, neighbourliness and community.” 

VANSA director Refilwe Nkomo said LAPA would be employed to transform the way in which the organisation relates and engages with the creative community and ecosystem.

“LAPA is an invitation to collaborate, to think and be together, to be in solidarity and co-existence,” Nkomo said. “As VANSA returns to a physical space, we continue to interrogate ideas of decentralisation while growing in more expansive and inclusive ways that are not only responsive to what our community needs, but also reflective of our commitment to systemic change, promoting access and opportunities within the visual arts sector and our broader arts network.”