Powerpuff Girls, African-style

At the back, from left, are event spokesperson Sarah Jenkins, creative director and office manager Phiwe Budaza, Amaan Heuvel from Manenberg and Ameera Allie of Rylands. In front are Rodale du Plessis, Nazeerah Davids and Audrey February of Manenberg, Ferlin du Preez from Gugulethu and Ngawodwa Bomela from the CBD. Some of the girls form part of Rock Girl.

Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup have come alive African-style in a new interpretation of the Powerpuff Girls at the Powerpuff Girls Art Factory exhibition by Cartoon Network, First Thursdays and Rock Girl, a Manenberg-based organisation which advocates for the rights of girls and women.

The exhibition, which was launched on Thursday April 6 as part of the First Thursdays initiative and will run until Tuesday May 2 at 91 Loop, includes 10 young artists’ interpretation of an African Powerpuff Girl.

First Thursdays involve art galleries and other establishments in the Cape Town CBD staying open late into the night on the first Thursday of every month.

“What we enjoy seeing most is when people leverage First Thursdays to do something special, whether that’s an exhibition opening, a pop-up show in an unusual space, or a performance,” said the co-founder of First Thursdays, Gareth Pearson.

“Thursdays Projects, the studio that leads First Thursdays, then developed the concept for the Powerpuff Girls Art Factory, selected and commissioned the artists, oversaw the printmaking, and managed the greater project and stakeholder relationships.”

He said the artists and illustrators were all from Cape Town and Johannesburg. “Some of them we knew, some we knew of, and others we found by digging around online. They’re all doing interesting work and we saw each of their potential to take on the brief.”

Some of the artists who took part at the Powerpuff Girl Art Factory include Tandiwe Tsabala, Ello Xray Eyez, Qondile Dlamini, Jade Klara, Tyla Mason, Ndumiso Nyoni, Karabo Poppy Moletsane, Anja Nanna Venter, Kgabo Mametja and Jeanne Fourie.

Mr Pearson said the exhibition was very well received. “We’ve sold a number of the artworks but we’re hoping to sell a lot more over the coming weeks, as 50% of the proceeds from sales will be donated to Rock Girl.

“We’re really happy with the quality of the artwork and prints, and how people have responded to the exhibition.

“With Thursdays Projects we’re starting to do more of this kind of work. A lot of brands want to be involved in First Thursdays but we believe many of them engage at quite a shallow level. As much as possible we like to work with brands to participate in First Thursdays in a very genuine way and contribute to the cultural programme,” said Mr Pearson.

Pierre Branco, vice-president and general manager for Turner Africa, which runs Cartoon Network, said that they were exceptionally proud to be part of the initiative.

“The PPG Art Factory promises to be all that the Powerpuff Girls are – cool, fun, kick-ass, fierce and visually exciting, while teaching that you are enough to take on the world,” he said.

“The local creative spirit in South Africa is phenomenal and this creativity is at the core of the PPG Art Factory and the Powerpuff Girls.”

Rock Girl, which was named from Albertina Sisulu’s iconic line “strike a woman, strike a rock”, was started in 2009 by human rights lawyer India Baird, who saw the need for the creation of safe spaces for girls, while volunteering at the Red River Primary School in Manenberg.

“What is interesting is that the Rock Girls are very much like the Powerpuff Girls in so many ways: Bravery, sisterhood, love and sassiness – the collaboration seemed so right,” said Ms Baird.

She said the aim of Rock Girl was to create safe spaces for girls and help them find their voices and become their own storytellers.

“We run workshops, and take girls on exciting road trips where we meet girls from around South Africa and talk about common challenges and solutions.

“We have also launched our own Brave shop at 3 Rose Street in the CBD, where we sell products which have been designed and tested by Rock Girls.”

Also, as part of the Rock Girl’s Safe Spaces public art and education initiative and in partnership with Cartoon Network, the latest Safe Spaces bench has been unveiled at the Powerpuff Girl Art Factory.

Ms Baird said the safe spaces initiative is a grassroots public art and education campaign that sought to draw attention to the need to create safe places for girls and women in our society – in schools, at work and in communities.

The benches, placed in busy and prominent areas, serve as a reminder of the many cases of assault in communities. “We want the benches to start conversations. Sitting down, you can strike up a conversation with someone about the need to look at how we can start making girls feel safer.”

More than 50 benches are already installed throughout South Africa, each one a collaboration with Rock Girls, artists, designers, architects and community leaders.

Ms Baird said the latest Powerpuff Girl bench was designed by Lovell Friedman in conjunction with the Waterfront Foundation. The bench will be placed at the V&A Waterfront.

“The Powerpuff Girl bench emphasises ‘girl power’ and the strength of sisterhood. It is a beacon of ‘braveness’,” said Ms Baird.

The exhibition is free. Anyone who would like to buy a painting, can email info@thursdaysprojects.co.za