Real-life exhibit wins artist award

Undergraduate stands out among 13 finalists in a creative art exhibition for Witsies. 

A third-year fine arts student won the Wits Young Artist Award 2019 for his performative display on Thursday, July 25, at The Point of Order art gallery in Braamfontein.

Adrian Fortuin won a cash prize of R10 000 for The readymade, made ready, his exhibit of a real-life security person guarding a trophy on a podium.

INVISIBLE: A security guard was part of Adrian Fortuin’s winning exhibit. Photo: Provided

The Wits Young Artist Award (formerly known as the Martienssen Prize) is compulsory for visual art students who are in third or fourth year. It was introduced in the 1980s and is focused on “rethinking and re-imagining what an art award means in a pan-African university”, according to Reshma Chhiba, one of three co-ordinators of the exhibition.

Fortuin told Wits Vuvuzela that, “I’ve been thinking about this idea of competition in a gallery space and creating work that will comment on the kind of situation or social structure that becomes part of the gallery when a competition is involved.”

The 24-year-old said he wanted to create something that was interactive to audiences and critique the idea that an art object needs to be something on a wall.

“It was very interesting because you normally think of security guards to almost be part of the structure of an institution.

“They kind of fall into the background and I think that did happen [at the exhibition]. There was very little interaction with the security guard,” the Johannesburg-born artist said.

A friend of the winner and fine art student, Riley Grant, said Fortuin has the “ability to articulate complex ideas in a seemingly simple, accessible and often humorous way”.

This year’s two panels were made up of professionals in the arts and creative industry. Over 50 entries were received and the selection panel, consisting of artist Nandipha Mntambo and filmmaker Dylan Valley, chose the 13 finalists.  The winner was then chosen by the judging panel which was made up of genderqueer artist, Dean Hutton, lecturer Dr. Dee Marco and artist Mary Sibande.

Chhiba said the adjudication panels were independent of Wits staff in order to avoid a biased approach as well as to allow the students exposure into the industry.

Adrian Fortuin is a third-year student who has won the Wits Young Artist Award of 2019.

The first runner-up was Hemali Khoosal who created a digital video installation commenting on the refugee crisis in Europe. She contrasted visuals of the sea with a father discussing his child’s mixed identity.

Mzoxolo Mayongo and Adilson De Oliveira of the MAGOLIDE collective were the second runner-up with their virtual reality interaction that focused on African histories and landscapes.

Jessica Jindrich, a finalist, said the competition allowed students to find a junction between the academic world and reality.

“I think exhibitions such as Wits Young Artist Award are important as initial platforms for the work we are producing. [They] start the conversations we want to be having, without the interaction being too insular,” said the fourth-year fine arts and psychology student.

The exhibition can be viewed by appointment at The Point of Order art gallery until August 8.

FEATURED IMAGE: Adrian Fortuin is a third-year student who has won the Wits Young Artist Award of 2019. Photo: Ortal Hadad



SLICE: When TV shows hit home

THE SABC 1 television show called Khumbul’ekhaya is watched regularly in my home, and it always generates a lot of discussion.

“If I were in their shoes, I don’t think I would forgive my parent(s) for being absent all these years,” or “I don’t think I would welcome the parent that had abandoned me,” are my usual responses.

Loosely translated, the title of the show means “Go back home”. I have always understood the point of the show to be to give people with limited resources an opportunity to reunite with their estranged family members, and I commend that.

According to the show’s website, “Themes of family forgiveness, communication and the courage to act are all explored from an emotional perspective – what do all of these values mean to our society and the characters that we see in the show?”

Another show my family watches is Utatakho (Your father) on Mzansi Magic, which assists adults with paternity tests to determine who their fathers are, particularly in cases where the mothers refuse to tell them.

I am emotionally invested in the television shows I watch, but I am also critical of the content I consume, especially if it addresses larger social issues.

I find it upsetting to see mothers and fathers who abandon their children for years. More so, absent parents who do very little to try and reunite with their children, giving petty excuses such as financial constraints, which is often the case in Khumbul’ekhaya.

The social learning theory would suggest that “Increased interaction with fathers provides children with an additional opportunity to learn social skills, as well as an additional source of emotional and instrumental support” (Leidy, Schofield & Parke, 2013).

In support of this theory, Utatakho and Moja Love’s No Excuse, Pay Papgeld (child maintenance) serve the purpose of holding parents (specifically fathers) accountable, and to emphasise the importance of the involvement of parents in child development.

Watching these shows, I have always sympathised with children who grew up without a solid family structure, because I valued my parents and two sisters so much that I could not begin to imagine a world outside of that family unit.

Imagine my shock when our parents revealed that my father had a daughter outside of their marriage, and they had kept her existence secret for 18 years. My biggest disappointment was that a father who had been so present in all aspects of my life had been supportive to my sister only financially.

My frustrations with the situation were that my own family had been guilty of separating a child from her family, and the possible damages thereof. According to psychoanalytical theorist Sigmund Freud, “Loss or absence of the father was thought to have negative consequences for the child as early as the prenatal period and is associated with later behavioural problems.”

Still our parents decisively kept our sister away from an opportunity of building a relationship with her siblings from an early age and of experiencing growing up with both parents.

As a result of this, my view of these family shows has shifted. From being judgmental and condemning the people who are featured, now that the issues covered have become personal I have become more sensitive to the fact that not everyone grows up with both parents, or with siblings from whom they are inseparable.

It is hard not to criticise parents who separate themselves from their children, whatever the reason, and fail to support them emotionally or otherwise. Now that I have come to realise how uncomfortable the truth can be, but how important it is to face, I have ceased to watch the shows.

FEATURED IMAGE: Jabulile Mbatha, student journalist of Wits Vuvuzela