Ahmed Kathrada’s legacy memorialised

The struggle veteran’s 93rd birthday sees the opening of an exhibition, chronicling both his his life and legacy.

Dozens gathered at the Constitution Hill in Braamfontein on Sunday, August 21, 2022 to honour anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada with a special collection of personal artefacts and imagery.

The Ahmed Kathrada foundation hosted esteemed guests at the Old Fort section of the historical monument in celebration of the life lived by “Kathy” or “Uncle Kathy”, as he was fondly known. Among attendees were Kathrada’s wife, Barbara Hogan. 

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela at the exhibition entrance, the Kathrada Foundation’s director, Neeshan Balton said: “[The exhibition] hopes to tell the story of the liberation struggle… it also hopes to get people to experience what living in prison on Robben Island would’ve been like.” He added that the exhibition shows that “freedom and any struggle to be achieved can’t be work overnight, it requires work over generations”.

“Seeing this exhibition in his honour not only gives the family hope but the world hope that his fight for freedom and non-racialism will continue,” said Yusuf Areignton-Kathrada.

From his favourite brown checkered blazer and black slip-ons to a addressed letter to former president Jacob Zuma, and a replica of his prison cell – the exhibition shows the highs and lows of Kathrada’s life.

Kathrada had served as a parliamentary counsellor to the late Nelson Mandela during his presidential tenure before his passing in 2017. The two had been in prison together at Robben Island before Kathrada was transferred to Pollsmoor prison from which he was released in 1990.

Reflecting on Kathrada’s life, speakers went as far as when he was 17 years old starting out as an activist against the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act. Despite having held many leadership positions by the end of his tertiary life, “he knew that the struggle had not ended,” said Irfaan Mangera, one of the foundation’s activists. Mangera remembered Kathrada as an outspoken activist who was respected regardless of his young age among his fellow activists.

The South African Revenue Services commissioner, Edward Kieswetter reminisced on the day Kathrada died as he stood beside him in hospital. Kieswetter said, in his last days, Kathrada’s fight had lost spirit as the new generation leaders “were failing to honour the promise of our constitution, to heal the wounds of the past and to establish a democratic society”.

The permanent exhibition will be accessible to the public during normal trading hours.

FEATURED IMAGE: An attendant of the exhibition glaring at the wall detailing the struggle veteran’s last years’ on earth. Photo: Keamogetswe Matlala

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Beadwork exhibition arrives at WAM

BEAUTY: Traditional and contemporary bead work features at the Beadwork, Art and the Body exhibition. Photo: Michelle Gumede

BEAUTY: Traditional and contemporary bead work features at the Beadwork, Art and the Body exhibition. Photo: Michelle Gumede

 

The bead work exhibition has arrived at the Wits Art Museum (WAM). A variety of bead work created by women throughout southern Africa are exhibited from the 1800’s right up to contemporary times.

“We haven’t had a major exhibition of bead work in the last 20 years,” says Professor Anitra Nettleton, Director of the centre of creative arts for Africa.

Veils, aprons, belts and blankets adorned with abundant colourful beadwork is being displayed at the Beadwork, Art and the Body, Dilo tse Dintshi’ exhibition. Items made by women of various ethnic groups.

The Sotho people are popularly known for their traditional blankets and hats, which are fashionable among everybody.  But not much is known about the bead

work that is made and worn by seSotho women at certain events and stages of life.

Ndebele, Zulu and Xhosa people also have their own style of beadwork. Their symbolism differs in size and colour. The Ntwana people are also represented in the collection. They are an ethnic group that is made up of Ndebele and Tswana people.

August being women’s month, this exhibition celebrates women’s work. Much of which was stolen by imperialists as ethnographic evidence. Much of the artwork has no known artist or definitive date of creation. The only thing that is clear is that Southern African women were the artists behind the works.

Professor Nettleton emphasized that, “in many ways, bead work became women’s work. ”

Recorded bead work dates back as early as the 1800’s. SeSotho women over time have perfected the art of beadwork, making them out of glass, clay and wood. This fashion trend continues today, African women still adorn themselves with beads. Beads serve as a fashion statement and they tell of ones social status.

Certain beads are worn at particular times of a woman’s life stages. Girls wear aprons when they are initiated into womanhood. When a woman marries she is also adorned with a special kind of beaded veil that shows that she is now taken as a wife. Even when a woman dies, she is buried with her beaded jewellery.

Contemporary artists like Zanele Muholi and Andrew Putter also feature their contemporary bead artworks. Men also feature in modern beadwork. Artists like Laduma Ngxokolo  have fused traditional aspects of bead work with modern styles to form  exciting pieces.

Artist Siopis continues to inspire

Globally acclaimed South African artist Penny Siopis opened her latest exhibition Time and Again at the Wits Art Museum on Monday. A retrospective view on Siopis’ 30 years of artwork, Siopis remains relevant and inspirational. 

RETROSPECTIVE VIEW: Exhibition goers take a look at one of Siopis' works. Photo: Katleho Sekhotho

RETROSPECTIVE VIEW: Exhibition-goers take a closer look at one of Penny Siopis’ works at the Wits Arts Museum in Braamfontein. Photo: Katleho Sekhotho

“Where’s Penny? Where’s Penny?” asked curator Fiona Rankin-Smith.

“Oh there she is,” says Rankin-Smith. “It’s wonderful to welcome Penny Siopis back to her second home.”

“Penny” is globally-renowned artist Penny Siopsis who on Monday opened a celebration of three decades of her work at an exhibition at the Wits Art Museum (WAM).

The evening was buzzing with many trying to get Siopis’ attention.

I was able to speak to her for just a few moments before she had to dash off. Kind and sweet, it was the first time I was able to put a face to the woman who had been an essential part in my visual arts learning in high school.

I want to dedicate the exhibition to my partner, my husband Colin Richards, who died very tragically and suddenly in 2012

Indeed the exhibition was focused around her many years of artwork, but more importantly her artwork was a commemoration to her late husband Colin Richards.

“I want to dedicate the exhibition to my partner, my husband Colin Richards, who died very tragically and suddenly in 2012, said Siopis. “He’s a very strong presence in the exhibition as he would be, and he’s also a very strong presence in the book that’s been published to coincide with the exhibition.”

Fellow artist Clive van den Berg introduced Siopis with the words, “Penny it gives me such profound happiness to celebrate with you, in loved ones present and absent, the results of 30 years of work.”

I first encountered the mythical idea of pink pinky as a child and then seeing that depicted in Siopis’ Pinky Pinky series of hand printed lithograph’s felt familiar.

As Van den Berg says: “So when we look at Pinky Pinky paintings or the so-called cake paintings, Penny’s method has already created a bridge for our understanding even before we think of their imagery.

”Similarly if we look at the history paintings which were formed by cutting and pasting illustrations from history books , the method, the sharply cut edges, the disjuncture of scale of association and narrative, tells us viscerally what she is doing before we put into words their basic premise.”

During her opening speech Siopis gave a heartfelt recount of the years of artwork that had finally lead her here:

“I also want to say that Clive has a very special meaning in my life, we were best friends when I first started out in Durban, we taught together … That was the time I made Queen Cakes and some of the earlier cake paintings. So to start this exhibition effectively in 1980 with the Queen Cakes and have Clive open the exhibition, and have Fiona here at WAM, putting a whole show together, is very, very special to me.

“So it’s this whole personal angle which is quite different,” she said.

Sipois said the exhibition includes her work up to 2012, when her husband passed away.

“There have been no works on this exhibition since he died. So for me the physical objects in this space mark his presence as much as my memory of him, and those who knew him at Wits would recognize in the exhibition.”

The exhibition ends on the 20th of July 2015.

Photographer captures KZN beach life

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to photographer Matt Kay, whose photographic exhibition “The Front” opened at the Market Photography Workshop in Newtown on March 25. The exhibition showcases the diverse activity on the beaches of the KwaZulu-Natal coastline.

 

A LOCAL PHOTOGRAPHIC NARRATIVE: Students and lecturers of photography came to the Market Photography Workshop in Newtown to experience Matt Kay's exhibition on Kwa Zulu Natal's coastline.

A LOCAL PHOTOGRAPHIC NARRATIVE: Students and lecturers of photography came to the Market Photography Workshop in Newtown to experience Matt Kay’s exhibition on Kwa Zulu-Natal’s coastline. Photo: Michelle Gumede

Matt Kay has had an extraordinary year. Not only did he receive the 2014 Tierney Fellowship, which supports young photographers to produce a body of work over the course of a year, but he was also mentored by renowned South African photographer David Goldblatt.

“I grew up in Nottingham road in Natal, it’s my memories of Durban that inspired this body of work,” Kay said. His previous works were about public spaces, particularly malls, and the beach seemed to be a natural progression from there.

“I wanted to capture and highlight some of the things that I don’t understand, they captivate and interest me”

With images that span the 15 beaches  of Durban’s coastline, Kay ‘s exhibition captures the peculiar actions and behaviors of people and nature on the beach. “I wanted to capture and highlight some of the things that I don’t understand, they captivate and interest me”.

“Powerful pictures have details,” said Kay. His photographic representations offer detailed accounts of a multitude of isolated and communal activity from religious baptisms, old women taking a dip in the ocean to dilapidated sand statues.

Matt Kay Market photo workshop

BEACH LIFE: Photographer Matt Kay has showcased life on the beach through his exhibition on the beaches of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Photo: Samantha Camara.

“It is important to document the coastline now, because the sea moves and change is inevitable, that’s why it must be captured now.”

Having left South Africa in 2004 to travel around the world to places like the Caribbean, Kay returned to find a Durban that had become what he calls a “showpiece for tourism”. Something that he says is not reflective of the daily lives of individuals occupying the space.

He lamented that he “deliberately tried to avoid race”, in his work but conceded that one cannot escape the socio-political and historic background of KwaZulu-Natal.

The artist hopes that he represented the space as honestly as possible and that tourists and South Africans alike will start seeing the space in more layered and meaningful way as opposed to the pristine, generic and “kinda fake” way that the space has been represented.

 

 

 

 

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