Collector’s Focus V

Courage is as Contagious as Fear:
Selected works from the Hoosein Mahomed Collection

Gallery 9

8 February 2020 – 21 April 2020

Courage is as Contagious as Fear: Selected Works from the Hoosein Mahomed Collection is part of Norval Foundation’s ongoing Collector’s Focus series of exhibitions and talks highlighting the divergent ways collections of visual art and design are assembled, managed, understood and engaged with by audiences. Initiated by the Foundation’s Founding CEO, Elana Brundyn, this series draws upon a broad range of local, national and international collections, owned by private individuals, corporate entities and public institutions, to consider the impact of these collections on the practice of collecting and, more broadly, in shaping culture.

Courage is as Contagious as Fear presents a selection of works from the collection of entrepreneur and attorney Hoosein Mahomed. Beginning with his first acquisition in 2007, Mahomed has established himself as a collector by acquiring works by prominent mid-career and established contemporary South African artists, as well as supporting younger artists at the beginning of their careers. Mahomed finds the acquisition process to be an acutely personal exercise, noting, “I think it’s not so much about collecting objects. It’s really about collecting memories. And it starts as one delves very deeply within the individual self, in order to begin the process of relearning and unlearning oneself through images”.

Mahomed’s collection is deeply connected to his personal experiences of growing up in a divided South Africa and the changing ways that identity politics have been investigated in the visual arts. A distinct shift has taken place since the mid-2010s, with a dissatisfaction and challenge to the status quo being led by younger South Africans, and Mahomed’s collection is reflective of this shift. He uses collecting as a process of exploring the multiplicity of individual as well as collective experience. This selection, made with input from the collector, highlights artworks that challenge society’s norms around sexual identity, queer culture, the church and state, race, class, moral expectations, and the osmosis of power and oppression. Mahomed has been acquiring works by artists who challenge preconceived or assumed conceptions of identity, as a celebration of their existence. From matrimony to bondage, fear to courage, celebration to assimilation, we are provided with a glimpse into the self-understanding of a mutable – but nonetheless triumphant – South African experience.

Courage is as Contagious as Fear is curated by Daniel Rautenbach and runs from 8 February 2020 to 21 April 2020 in Gallery 9. Accompanying the exhibition will be a musical performance in response to the exhibition, composed by Bongani Ndodana-Breen, whose artistic practice resonates with the concerns in this exhibition. The title is taken from Susan Sontag’s Óscar Romero Award Keynote Address, ‘On Courage and Resistance’, which took place at the Rothko Chapel (Houston, USA) on March 30th, 2003. Norval Foundation would like to thank Hoosein Mahomed for generously agreeing to participate in this exhibition and the Norval family for their ongoing support.

Artists featured: Jody Brand, Reshma Chhiba, Kudzanai Chiurai, Steven Cohen, David Goldblatt, Donna Kukama, Moshekwa Langa, Gerald Machona, Turiya Magadlela, Esther Mahlangu, Nandipha Mntambo, Zanele Muholi, Asemahle Ntlonti, Athi-Patra Ruga, Cinga Samson, Berni Searle, Johannes Segogela and Brett Seiler.



Norval Foundation’s Collector’s Focus is a series of exhibitions and talks that highlight the role of collectors of visual art and design in shaping culture. It was established by Elana Brundyn, CEO of Norval Foundation, to recognise the unique contributions that collectors play in the preservation and evolution of culture. Norval Foundation continues to work with a broad range of local, national and international collections, owned by private individuals and corporate organisations, to consider their impact on knowledge and research in the arts. In line with Norval Foundation’s mission, the objects selected for display from these collections will predominantly be from the 20th and 21st centuries, and will be presented within dynamic exhibitions which highlight the collector’s or organisation’s particular viewpoint on visual art and design. Special attention will be paid to the context of collecting and how it may have informed what objects were acquired. Both internal and external curators are invited to work with a collection that Brundyn identifies in consultation with that curator. Talks with collectors, artists, designers, curators, academics and cultural practitioners will provide a range of perspectives on the role of the collector within society.

While a few large scale collections are publicly accessible, both locally and globally, many other high quality collections are only on view in private residences, corporate offices or are simply in storage. This series of exhibitions provides a platform where artworks in these collections can be viewed, discussed and appreciated, honouring the contributions that collectors have made in supporting and promoting artists and designers, and is an opportunity to share with the public the vital role that collectors play.

More broadly, the process of collecting is perhaps a fundamental aspect of human nature even as it differs between cultures, periods and individuals. As tastes, times, and circumstances change, collecting habits evolve and adapt. Personal and unique to their individual owners, visual art and design collections are a way in which important milestones and memories can be crystallised into a tangible and personal archive or diary. At times, collecting may reflect admiration for a particular style, artist, designer or period in history.

Central to this programme is an understanding that art collecting is not necessarily a privilege reserved for a select few. Instead, from humble beginnings and in unlikely places, a passion for art can lead to a lifetime of collecting. According to Hilla von Rebay,

The importance of the collection does not lie in its valuable pictures alone, for anyone with great wealth may acquire the most famous ones. The real value of a collection lies in its organic growth and selection, expressing the personality of the collector.

Hilla von Rebay, artist and inaugural Director of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York, USA)


Our inaugural Collector’s Focus exhibition focused on representations of African spirituality in the Norval Family’s Homestead Art Collection. Titled notes on spectrality, sorcery and the spirit, the exhibition showcased works from as early as the 1950s and 1980s to as recent as the 2000s. The artworks in the Homestead Art Collection, and by extension, the exhibition, attest to a longstanding preoccupation with ideas of the oneiric, the spectral, and issues pertaining to different forms of black spiritual economies. notes on spectrality, sorcery and the spirit was curated by Adjunct Curator Portia Malatjie.

Vedanā: Experiences of Tonality in the Véronique Susman-Savigne Collection, our second edition in the series presented a constellation of works from the collection of Véronique Susman-Savigne, which ruminated on humanity’s existential questions and the psychology of being. The collection, which includes contemporary works acquired on several continents, exists as a mirror to the human psyche; it reflects on fundamental existential questions that relate to human thought, behaviour and personality. Vedanā: Experiences of Tonality in the Véronique Susman-Savigne Collection was curated by Mike Mavura.

Our third edition, Collector’s Focus: Nudes in the Sanlam Art Collection, brought together a remarkable group of eighty-seven objects owned by the South African insurance company Sanlam, as part of Norval Foundation’s third edition of the Collector’s Focus series. These artworks are connected to one another by their inclusion of the nude figure and were created by South African artists, or artists who were émigrés to South Africa, active in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Collector’s Focus: Nudes in the Sanlam Art Collection presented a diversity of practices, including artists that chafed at social conventions, using the nude to comment on gender and sexual orientation, and unsettling simplistic interpretations of the genre. Nudes in the Sanlam Art Collection is organised by Elana Brundyn, Chief Executive, Owen Martin, Chief Curator and Talia Naicker, Curatorial and Collections Assistant.

The fourth and current edition in the Collector’s Focus series, Mapping Worlds: Selected Works from the Scheryn Art Collection, focuses on the Cape Town-based Scheryn Art Collection, which was established in 2015 and is jointly owned by Dabing Chen, Herman Steyn and Piet Viljoen. These three collectors amalgamated the majority of their existing collections and began jointly collecting modern and contemporary work by artists from Africa and the African diaspora. Mapping Worlds highlights artworks in the collection that translate the material world or abstract conceptions of space into two-dimensional images or three-dimensional form, offering strategies to understand and navigate our world in innovative and critical ways, or alternatively imagine a world distinctly different from our own. To tease out points of connection and dissonance, works of divergent media, and from distinct genres and time periods, are in conversation with one another. Mapping Worlds is organised by Owen Martin, Chief Curator and Talia Naicker, Curatorial and Collections Assistant.

Exhibition Curator:   Daniel Rautenbach
Curatorial and Public Programme Coordinator: Vicky Lekone
Curatorial and Collections Assistant: Talia Naicker
Technical Assistant: Mervyn van Rooyen
Marketing and Communications Coordinator: Luke de Kock
Education Coordinator: Lindsay Hendricks
Graphic Designer: Daniel Rautenbach
Events Coordinator: Talitha Cronje
Patrons Coordinator: Julia Buchanan
Retail Product Coordinator: Vuyolwethu Mbete
and Norval Foundation’s entire team