Thupelo is a Sotho word and means ' to teach by example'.The Thupelo workshops provide artists with a rare opportunity to work with fellow artists in an intense yet supportive environment where the creative process is designed to lead to personal artistic growth. The workshops are not only a space for artists to make art; they are also a space for the exchange of ideas, experiences, techniques and disciplines, thereby creating the conditions for artists to experiment and find new or different forms of expression. In essence, it is the interaction between artists from diverse cultural, national and social backgrounds that provides the workshops with a creative energy that is more than likely to influence the work of participating artists.
Thupelo workshops are styled on Triangle Network’s artists workshops,
the first of which was held in up-state New York in 1982. Since then,
workshops based on the Triangle model have taken place on a regular
basis in thirty-seven countries, with nearly 3000 artists participating
in events. All workshops are organised and convened by local artists and
coordinators in the countries in which they are held. They are run for
an uninterrupted period of ten days to two weeks and are attended by
between twenty and twenty-five artists. In the case of international
workshops, half the number of participants are from the host country.
A feature of each workshop is the Workshop Open Day, which provides a unique opportunity for the public to interact with the artists and to view the wide variety of vibrant and highly original artworks and works in progress created during the workshop.
The first Thupelo workshop held in Africa took place in 1985 in Johannesburg. At the end of the 1980s, Thupelo moved to Cape Town, where it held its first artists workshop in 1990. National and regional workshops are held annually – depending on funding – and are attended by artists from South Africa, Africa and abroad.
The first Thupelo International Artists Workshop in Cape Town was held in 1995. Subsequent workshops took place in 1996, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004. Thus far, over 200 artists from different parts of the world have participated in these workshops. Workshops have been held in Cape Town, on Robben Island, and at the Goedgedacht Centre near Malmesbury.
Following the success of the Thupelo workshops, Thupelo Cape Town and the Triangle Arts Trust established Greatmore Studios, a facility that provides long-term studio space for local artists and three-month residencies for visiting artists from elsewhere in South Africa, Africa and abroad. It also offers exhibition space for resident artists and runs outreach programmes.
Greatmore Studios is the third in a series of residency studios established with the support of the Triangle Arts Trust in different parts of the world. Similar initiatives include the Bag Factory in South Africa, Thapong in Botswana, Kuona Trust in Kenya, Gasworks in the United Kingdom, Caribbean Contemporary Arts in Trinidad and Tobago and Khoj in India.