The exhibition Between the Shadow and Light, to which I contributed one sculpture, one set of drawings and photographs (6 framed works), another sculpture that formed part of a collaborative work (of three artists) and one Protea (also a collaborative piece), composed of approximately 45 works in diverse media and styles in total. There were 21 African and North American artists from 8 countries including Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Canada, and the USA and the exhibition was hosted by 21 institutions in 18 cities in 15 states. It travelled in the US for approximately 5-6 years, from August 2014 to January 2019 and was seen by an estimated 15,000 people.
The exhibition was a result of a two-week artist residency in South Africa, attended by professors and practicing artists from various international universities. The works created for this exhibition contributed to the larger debate of: Resilience, Remembrance, Resistance, Reconciliation, Representation and Re-visioning, which are vital and contemporary debates internationally. The South African situation has been explored in my works by focussing on these issues while making it unique and relevant to my situation as a white, Afrikaans-speaking female artist and academic.
Various conferences were held in conjunction with this exhibition (please see evidence) and were used within and around tertiary university settings in order to enhance and showcase the importance of the academic and artist debate of how to deal with the socio-political reality of a post-apartheid South African society. The gap between being an artist and being an academic has been addressed. Various prominent figures related to this field were visited and their work influenced the exhibition as a whole, including members of the Truth and Reconciliation commission, such as prof. Piet Meiring and Archbishop Desmond Tutu or University representatives such as prof Russel Botman. Furthermore, the relevance, re-appropriation and influence of South African monuments and institutions, such as the Voortrekker Monument, Regina Mundi Chruch, the Apartheid museum, Constitution Hill are considered, where the outputs effectively deal with the realities of suffering and injustice and how artists and academics engage with these realities. The results of the outputs have contributed to the teaching and learning of the involved academics and artists and various talks, conference presentations and articles have been consequently produced (see attached evidence). The outputs, as the title suggests, clearly portrays the tensions that exist between two artistic roles—“ both piercing prophets and hopeful seers”.
Artist statements specific to each output:
Hunger belts –The Rainbow’s Hope is a very complex work that incorporates many concepts and aspects of South African Life, which contribute to both contemporary and historical discourses dealing with decolonisation, as well as the aspects discussed above.
On the one hand, this work deals with my identity as a white, female, afrikaans speaking women, and how my Western roots/background influences my identity as an "African". This becomes clear not only in the female shape of the work, but also the use of beads. On the other hand, this work deals with the whole South African Nation and each of our own "hungers"- things we hope for, things we wish to change, things in the past that have shaped us. Here there is also a direct link to the book "The Heart of Redness" by Zakes Mda, in which he makes use of the term 'hunger belts". Mda refers to physical “hunger belts” used by the Xhosa people, to distract / prevent them from feeling their hunger during the famine in their land, when the English started to ‘take over’. Although the concept of “hunger belts” in the book strongly links with my use of the term in the artwork, I have adapted the meaning of this concept slightly.
In the following paragraphs there will be a short description and references to the various elements present in the work:
* Belts - The belts, which form part of the title “Hunger belts”, are used in reference to the book "The Heart of Redness" by Zakes Mda, as mentioned above. In contrast to Mda’s use of the term, these Hunger belts should be interpreted in a contemporary South Africa. Various aspects and elements of South African life, such as the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the people in this country are highlighted.
The various colours of the belts are a reference to South Africa being the rainbow nation. Because we have so many cultures, different people and multiple (eleven) official languages, South Africa’s people has become known as the Rainbow nation. Each 'member' of the Rainbow nation has his/her own culture, background, story and history. In order to function as a society, each member contributes something, but at the same time, we all have to let go of something, or even make compromises. It is therefore important to note, that all the belts used belonged to myself, my family and close friends, all of who are females. Each belt has its own story, history and sentimental value (it is actually hard to let go of some of my belts used here - although letting go incorporates an important aspect to the meaning of the work). It is also here where the 5 R's (Remembrance, Resistance, Reconciliation, Representation and Re-visioning) as discovered and discussed during our time as a group in South Africa becomes important and evident in the work.
* Beads - The beading techniques used in the creation of this work, are very traditional. I used a typical weaving style around the neck, and also created a necklace in a traditional, but more modern African manner. The use of colours are very important in this works. I have used very traditional colours, which form part of the new South African flag (red, blue, white, black and yellow) at the top of the work. Underneath (the bottom layers around the shoulders, as well as the necklace) are brown and blue metallic colours, as well as a light green and red metallic base). These layers underneath represents my Western roots and background, which is overgrown with the "Africaness". The colours of the beads used on the 'body' part of the work, are colours from the old (apartheid) flag of the RSA (Republic of South Africa).
Beading is traditionally a female occupation in Africa, especially in black communities. During the South African trip as a group, we heard that traditionally women would use the different colours in their beaded works to convey certain messages to their husbands, betrothed ones, family and friends. Using the colours of the South African flag, I am writing my own message of hope, courage and faith of our country. * Fertility doll - When we visited the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) as a group, we visited a room with fertility dolls and traditional African artifacts. This work is a creation of my own fertility doll, even though I am referring to 'fertility' in a different sense than the traditional use of the word. As can be seen in the images I included of the fertility dolls. This work could visually be placed amongst these traditional dolls (see examples in evidence attached). Yet my doll is a contemporary interpretation thereof. The "fertility" in my doll refers to our country, as well as my identity as a South African white female in contemporary society. Each individual has so much to offer, in order for this country to grow, just like my own identity is continually growing and developing.
* ID barcode - At the back in the neck of the work, there is a beaded section which resembles a barcode. Even though this might seem a bit cliché at first, there is a lot of meaning in terms of my own identity in this gesture.