So I’ve been back in my studio for more than a week… It still feels a bit unreal to be back to ‘reality’, partly because my studio has moved and everything is new but also because OPENLab2016 was such an intense and immersive experience.

I met incredible artists during this residency, which forms part of PIAD/PIKO at the University of Free State and the Vryfees/Freestate Arts Festival. PIAD is the Programme for Innovative Artform Development and during the festival they also had a forum focused on art and sustainable development – ‘Cultural Sustainability in Environments of Change’ – at Naval Hill Planetarium in Bloemfontein. Alison Tickell, director of ‘Julie’s Bicycle’ has a vision of creative communities powering action on climate change. And our raw, renewable material for this? Creativity!

I met MC Roodt from gRRRKollective at the forum and later in the week, and we chatted about land art, site-specificity and making things happen… Great guy! Awesome collective – check it out at

We also met the guys from pvi collective from Australia, and this year’s festival artist, Alex Rinsler. This was all before we even climbed into the little bus to Richmond for our studio residency at MAP (Modern Art Projects). This is where the REAL work started. Two of the most valuable workshops were held in Bloemfontein, though, by our main facilitator Paul Gazzola.

Once in Richmond we had daily workshops with our other facilitators, including Lesiba Matsitsela, Ella Ziegler, Khanyisile Mbongwa and Abrie Fourie. Each workshop contained some element of collaboration or ‘out-the-box-thinking-and-working’, and a presentation of our work at the end of the day. By the end of the week we had to integrate it all into one final presentation, artwork or performance. Most of this was outside or site-specific, or at least site-inspired.

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The entire project and residency has been an incredible and inspiring experience for me. Yes, I was challanged. Yes, there’s always group dynamics and the challenges of living with other creative, dynamic and dominant people. But I learnt a LOT, about other people, about place, about the importance of other people’s ideas and opinions, and about myself.

View my final work for the residency >>

View more photos on the PIAD facebook page >>

All above photos by Bongani Njalo.