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.

Xhosa struggle is a black and white issue

UNSETTLING HISTORY: Cedric Nunn posing with some of his photographs from the Unsettled exhibition on the opening night. Photo by Sibongile Machika

UNSETTLING HISTORY: Cedric Nunn posing with some of his photographs from the Unsettled exhibition on the opening night. Photo Sibongile Machika

A black-and-white photographic exhibition highlighting the struggle of the Xhosa people opened at Wits Art Museum (WAM) this week.

The photographs, by acclaimed South African photographer Cedric Nunn, depict landscapes and buildings where key events took place.

The exhibition reflects the story of the Xhosa people that managed to resist British and Boer domination for 100 years in the Eastern Cape. The people in his portraits are the descendants of active participants in the wars and negotiations of that time.

“All this before the Shaka reign, yet history does not remember the Xhosas with the same glory.”

Nunn started his career documenting the realities of apartheid. His work mainly focuses on social change with particular interest in rural communities and issues. But reflecting a 100-year journey authentically was difficult. He said he focused on landscapes because land has an amazing ability to hold time. Black and white photography simply enhances that effect, said Nunn.

“This is an incredible story,” said Nunn. “That’s why I was drawn to it. Often people forget to see the good. Here is a nation that resisted British rule for 100 years,” Nunn said.

They had a dignity and code of conduct that carried them throughout the nine wars that played out at the time. “All this before the Shaka reign, yet history does not remember the Xhosas with the same glory,” said Nunn.

He said he felt a deep connection to this story because he is a descendant of a British settler who went on to marry a Zulu woman at time when it was seen as the ultimate taboo. More importantly this is a South African and that’s why it matters to him.

This project took three years to complete and was funded by Mellon Senior Scholar funding from Rhodes University. The scholarship allowed Nunn to be entrenched in the Grahamstown community while doing his work. Most of the pictures were shot in film so it took months before he could see the results of his work.

“More importantly this is a South African and that’s why it matters to him.”

Nunn said he hopes to leave a positive legacy for young South Africans and his exhibitions are one way of doing it. Unsettled depicts an important time in South African history and showcases the strength, dignity and humility of the Xhosa people which Nunn said he could still experience 150 years later.

Unsettled: One Hundred Years War of Resistance by Xhosa against Boer and British is showing from the 10th March to the 12th April 2015. WAM is open to the public Wednesday – Friday between 10a.m and 6p.m.

 

Man robbed and tied to a grave in Braamfontein cemetery

CONCERNING: Thugs have been robbing locals and tying them up in the cemetry

CONCERNING: Thugs have been active  robbing Braamfontein locals and, in one attack, tying them up in the cemetery. Photo: Ilanit Chernick.

Wits Campus Control have warned students of an escalation in criminal activity in the area following the robbery of a man who was left tied to a grave in Braamfontein cemetery recently.

A tweet from the Campus Control account sent out on July 24 warned students that on “Enoch Sontonga [there are] thugs becoming violent”.

Security and liaison manager at Campus Control, Lucky Khumela, said the tweet followed the armed robbery of an unidentified man on July 23.

“A man was approached by three armed men. They robbed him of his valuables and then tied him up with wires to a grave in the Braamfontein cemetery,” Khumela said.

The man was left tied to the grave during the night wearing only a t-shirt and boxers. He managed to untie himself and alerted Campus Control of the attack. Campus Control then informed the South African Police Services (SAPS).

Khumela said police have promised to increase patrols in the area.

The area around the bridge outside the cemetery, across the road from Wits, has become a known crime hot-spot for thugs and students have been warned to be cautious there even during the day.

“There are guards from 6am to 6pm, but students must still be careful,” said Khumela

Campus Control also stressed on Twitter that students must not walk alone or with valuables in “isolated areas” after hours because “robberies outside campus is a real concern”.

Two female Wits students were also the victims of two separate smash and grab incidents outside the Wits Art Museum over this past week.

On Friday afternoon a student was driving along Jorissen street when a man approached her car window, smashed it and grabbed her bag.

The second robbery took place on Monday afternoon, also on Jorissen street, when another female student was waiting in traffic. A man smashed her window and grabbed her cellphone before running off into the busy street.

Campus Control posts security guards on Jorrisen street. However, Khumela said the smash and grab thieves were “opportunists” who waited until the guards were patrolling further down the street before striking. Khumela said they were investigating the recent incidents.

 

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WITH GALLERY: University Corner lift is on fire

Ringing alarms and the smell of burning rubber forced occupants of University Corner to exit the building unexpectedly today.

At three this afternoon, occupants of Wits’ University Corner Building on the corner of Jorissen and Bertha streets were rushed out of the building following a fire in the building. “The alarm rang in our building and we thought nothing of it. But then I went to investigate more and I saw smoke coming out of the lift,” said Juliet White who is an events coordinator at Drama for Life.

Just wait 

White’s colleague Zandile Bekwa then called Wits emergency services to notify them about the smoke. “I called the emergency services and they said we should just wait and not move,” said Bekwa.  She said they waited for a few minutes as the smell of the smoke became more potent and they decided to leave the office.

“We decided to take the stairs down to ground floor because we got a bit nervous when we saw the smoke,” said Bekwa. On their way down stairs the ladies met James Bekes a technician from Britefire Security who told them to exit the building as there had been a fire in one of the three lifts.

[pullquote align=”right”]I think they might be waiting for somebody to get killed before they fix the lifts[/pullquote]

Bekes said a small electrical fire had started in Lift B on the 14th floor due to a faulty control panel, which made the buttons burst into flames. He said they had been called at 3:05 PM and had arrived on scene five minutes later. “I cannot confirm what created the electrical fire but we were called to come handle the issue,” he said.

Last month Wits Vuvuzela reported that faulty lifts in the building were leaving students, staff and tenants frustrated.  Eddy Kekana, technical supervisor for the Property and Infrastructure Management Division (PIMD), said the lifts could only be fixed one lift at a time and that each lift would take up to six months to fix.

“Basically we found out about the fire via word of mouth”

Wits Vuvuzela has since learned that lift B which started the fire is not the lift that was being repaired, but rather the lift students and staff have been using throughout the year.

As technicians attended to the emergency, a group of people waited in the reception area of the Wits Arts Museum. Nick Rumpelt, 3rd year Music student, they were rehearsing on the 8th floor and they were notified about the fire by a classmate who bumped into some people rushing down stairs.

“Basically we found out about the fire via word of mouth, no one official like security or the technician came to notify us,” said Rumpelt.  Carlo Mombelli, famous South African bassist and music teacher at Wits was told not to enter the building when he arrived to give a lesson.

“I think they might be waiting for somebody to get killed before they fix the lifts,” he said. It was only at 5pm after 2 hours that occupants were allowed to re-enter the building.

Only one lift remains functional in the 21 storey building, however students and staff are reluctant to use it following the fire.

Wits News: Artist talkabout at WAM

[Information taken from Wits News: email wits.news@wits.ac.za for more information.]
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The Wits Arts Museum, WAM, presents the following events on the exhibitions: Meaning Motion by Nathaniel Stern and Tegan Bristow; and Taxi Hand Signs: Symbolic Landscapes of Public Culture by Susan Woolf.

 

Adult Talkabout with Nathaniel Stern and Tegan Bristow on Meaning Motion

Date: 22 June 2012

Time: 11:00

Venue: Wits Art Museum, Jorissen Street, Braamfontein

 

Adult Talkabout with Susan Woolf on Taxi Hand Signs: Symbolic

Date: 22 June 2012

Time: 12:00

Venue: Wits Art Museum, Jorissen Street, Braamfontein

 

Enquiries: Leigh.blackenberg@wits.ac.za or 011-717-1378

 

 

Adult Talkabout with Nathaniel Stern and Tegan Bristow on Meaning Motion

Date: 22 June 2012

Time: 11:00

Venue: Wits Art Museum, Jorissen Street, Braamfontein

 

Adult Talkabout with Susan Woolf on Taxi Hand Signs: Symbolic

Date: 22 June 2012

Time: 12:00

Venue: Wits Art Museum, Jorissen Street, Braamfontein

 

Enquiries: Leigh.blackenberg@wits.ac.za or 011-717-1378