Saturday, November 29, 2014

My room at the centre of the universe....Africa meets Africa Educator's Resource Launch; Thursday 3 December 2014.

‘My Room at the Centre of the Universe’ is the latest release in an innovative series of educator’s resource books and films produced by the Africa meets Africa Project AMA.
Marcus Neustetter (Artist), Big Bang. 2012.
Elvirdo with a sparkler-star. Image - Marcus Neustetter, shooting star1-3, 2012.
FADA Art Gallery, at the University of Johannesburg’s Bunting road campus, in association with Africa meets Africa, invites you to the launch on 4 December 2014 at 18h30 for 19h00 of:

My Room at the centre of the Universe….an evocative resource book and film on DVD for all those interested in seeking out answers about our place in the universe; and just how we know what we know:

Join us for an outdoor screening of the story of a bright sixteen year old who asks the big questions, as he stares at the brilliant stars in the quiet Karoo night sky through the lens of his own bedroom window at his Ouma’s modest Karoo farm house. 

Sutherland, Karoo town, home to SALT.
On the plateau nearby, just outside the small town of Sutherland, astrophysicists look at the same stars though the complex eye of SALT (the Southern African Large Telescope). ‘We are all made of stars, you know’, Elvirdo’s  grandma would tell him. ‘The stars are us…’  

‘Stars are the only elemental factories we know of in the universe. And therefore we can say that every atom we are made of was made inside a burning star‘, Elvirdo is told by Cosmologist Dr Carolina Ödman Govender, when he quotes Ouma’s words to her. Carolina is one of several researchers he comes across when he goes for walks in the veld near the South African Astronomical Observatory. Whether these interesting people are astrophysicists, archaeologists or the occasional visual artist, Elvirdo notices that they all have one thing in common: they approach the Karoo earth and its sky with intent and sensitive observation. He asks them his burning questions … and their answers lead him to more.

Elvirdo Booysen talking to archaeologist Sven Ouzman in a rock shelter
beneath the SA Astronomical Observatory plateau.
SKA Dish Sutherland.
My Room at the Centre of the Universe is also the title Elvirdo gives his personal research journal (the book we are launching on 4 December - image left) now that he has grown up and moved away. He is a teacher now and started this journal when he was travelling back to Sutherland, once, to do some professional research. 
Since his boyhood years here he has travelled a great deal and read widely on cutting edge science and contemporary art, on traditional African cosmologies, on archaeology, geology and poetry from this arid area. His journal, richly illustrated with photographs, newspaper clippings and his drawings, is all about his own observation and knowledge making over many years. He has found many answers and yet more questions. 
Mature reflection has led him to integrating strands of evidence from a range of disciplines. Yet most often his thinking leads him back to the questions he posed as a teenager, under these brilliant stars. Maybe one could teach more effectively by integrating subjects like Science, History, Visual Arts and language?

Willem Boshoff (artist) Clast Mar, series of six granite sculptures titled, Children of the stars.
Text sandblasted in six languages, including Ronga Randim, Estonian, Chinese,
Malay, English and Arabic.
He remembers the conversation he had here with contemporary artist Willem Boshoff, whom he came across in the veld near SAAO carefully photographing the smallest details of the most ordinary things. They talked about really looking. Artists Marcus Neustetter and Bronwyn Lace helped him make his own artworks, He knew them well from the many artworks they had made here in Sutherland, drawing his community into a new way of thinking about their place. 

Elvirdo’s room now became a thinking-space for creative scientific enquiry; almost like the inner space of his own mind:  an idea he would  hear the artist William Kentridge talk about, many years later. At Carnarvon Dr Nadeem Oozeer, an Operations and Commissioning scientist at the exciting international Square Kilometre Array radio astronomy project told him: ‘The SKA aims to probe the cosmos to the edge of the observable universe’.  
Elvirdo’s questions are all about origins, also his own, through the ancient KhoeSan ancestry of this landscape. They, he discovers, were genetically unique, their genome including the oldest distinct lineage of modern humans!

Ouma knew many of the old people’s stories. About the sun cutting away at the moon, and how it would come back to life again and again. About the stars being the hearts of healers who had died. He heard about the /Xam San (or Bushmen) who lived around here for centuries as hunter-gatherers before the Cape Colony’s Trekboers came. He has heard since that some of the Karretjiemense you see beside the highway today still carry the DNA of the /Xam and some of our oldest human ancestors.

There is no limit, it seems, to how far you can see from home, if you really look.

My Room at the Centre of the Universe (ISBN: 978-0-620-61420-7)
was developed by a team of specialists in astrophysics, archaeology, geology, paleontology, art history, visual arts, education and film making. The team includes: Helene Smuts, Bronwyn Lace, Marcus Neustetter, Guy Spiller, Enrico Olivier, Carolina Ödman Govender, Kevin Govender, Chonat Getz, Nadeem Oozeer, David Morris, John Parkington, Marcelle Olivier, Bruce Rubidge, Christine Mullen Kreamer, David Riep, Jackie Scheiber, Willem Boshoff, Fanie Olivier and Karel Nel. Film directed by Guy Spiller and book lay-out and design by Anina Bartlett. With acknowledgement of the Sutherland Reflections Project by Lace, Neustetter and the community of Sutherland.
Published by The Africa meets Africa Project in June 2014.

About Africa meets Africa:

This is the fifth educator’s resource produced by the Africa meets Africa project, an independent Non Profit Company committed to seeking out pragmatic learning solutions for the South African classroom, by looking to what is known and familiar in local southern African knowledge systems. Most often these are preserved and expressed through the skilled hands of rural artists, who make exquisite objects (most often for everyday use) according to inherited styles. AmA continually documents southern African cultural heritage.

The unique arts skills based Africa meets Africa learning methodology integrates the arts, history, mathematics and science.  The Theorem of Pythagoras, for example, is found illustrated in an Ndebele wall painting design (image on the left) and learners do geometry when they make beadwork according to inherited Zulu styles (image below, left). 

Those learners for whom English is a third or fourth language are supported in the classroom by an accessible visual language of learning. My Room at the centre of the Universe brings new avenues of learning to the project by integrating science, contemporary art, archaeology and poetry. For sample pages and film clips see the ‘Publications’ link at www.africameetsafrica.co.za. Each resource book and film in the series is introduced to teachers along with CAPS curriculum-linked classroom lesson materials, during workshop programmes presented in partnership with local universities, provincial or district education departments.

For additional information on Africa meets Africa please contact:
Helene Smuts, Director of the Africa meets Africa Project.

Website: www.africameetsafrica.co.za

Monday, November 10, 2014

SHIFT [IN] COLLECTIVE: A FADA Visual Arts BTech Exhibition; Barnes, Hall, Mashinini and Rowley.

Michael Peterson Studio Shot.
FADA Gallery Opening. 

Thursday 13 November

Time: 18:00 for 18:30 

From: 13-20 November

Chelsea Rowley studio shot.
Chelsea Rowley
This body of work deals primarily with the creation of ambiguous imagery. Through the use of a painterly and mainly two-dimensional medium, I have investigated the indeterminate and tentative nature of the ambiguous image. Within this visual portrayal of ambiguity lie certain dichotomous aspects such as corporeality and artificiality, and landscapes and macro imagery.

When confronted with such ambiguous imagery the viewer is made aware of the act of observation and spectatorship, and, more importantly, of their role in the interpretation of the image, as they recognize certain connotations of aspects and objects and subsequently link them to certain areas of each work.

Michael Petersen
Through this body of work I seek to explore my own identity as a coloured male in contemporary Johannesburg. Through the notion of claiming space, I seek to represent the coloured identity as an undefinable, intermediary culture rich in contradiction.

I do this by drawing a parallel to the mythological entity known as the trickster, in which I address motifs, values and anecdotes pertaining to the coloured culture in a manner which is separate from stereotypical understanding.

Not only does the trickster seek to claim space within a given environment but also within himself. The collection is focused around the sub theme of ‘things my mother said’, addressing both nostalgia and absurdism.
Michael Petersen studio shot.

Siani-Michelle Hall
City in Transition

Johannesburg is a city that is losing its ‘self’ because of its multifaceted identity. The original identity of Johannesburg has been ‘camouflaged’ due to the fact that there are so many different cultures existing in one space.

This body of work investigates the constant shifting spaces of the city of Johannesburg. Through the constant reiteration of my photographic material of the city and the over layering process of the ink wash drawings, I attempt to develop the city of Johannesburg into a camouflage space commenting on its composite identity.

Zanele  Mashinini’s work is primarily about an exploration of a selection of different cultures within the African continent. A distinctive element in her work is cowhide which plays a role of being a signifier of culture and cultural customs and traditions. 

She investigates the notion of dowry as well as her identity and sense of place, focusing mainly on African brides and African customs. Mashinini is particularly interested in the concept of dowry because there will be a point in her life where she will settle down and get married. This exploration of different brides serves as a study which prepares her for when the time and opportunity for her to become a bride avails itself.  She presents herself in specific African contexts, mimicking these African brides in different poses so as to achieve ways in which culture has influenced the women’s representation in each of the societies in which they belong. Mashinini explores her Swazi culture, Xhosa culture as well as the influence of the BaSotho culture in her identity.  She therefore hybridises her identity and sense of self with cultures different from her own.

My work deals with family history, shame and the trauma that follows shame. My concept deals with Three Generations of women. I thought about what makes my grandmother, my mother and I similar; I found the links to be ordeals and traumatic experiences that each of us experienced at a young age. I chose to represent this by using memory as a tool and I re-enacted these memories to create my sculpture. An interview that consisted of 36 questions was conducted with my grandmother, mother and I. I found similarities in very specific questions and one thing I’ve learnt because of this interview is that the secrets amongst family members are abundant and dark, and only once you know about them do you realize how similar your lives are or have become. It is almost as if there is an existing pattern (invisible and un-controlling) or wave that has been passed on from generation to generation. 

One of these patterns is that of abuse. I use drawers and doors as a metaphor for secrets. The object becomes the metaphor. You can only see the secret once you open the drawer. The drawer holds secrets and memories, inside each drawer is a story. The same applies for the doors (secrets on top of secrets). The way I was brought up plays a big role in the way I think and the way in which I make art and also the decisions I make on what to display and tell. Therefore I have chosen to reconstruct these memories and share secrets through different aspects by using different objects and have them displayed. I wanted to send messages in these drawers, they act as a “peephole” into my family’s life, a side of my family and I that becomes exposed, and opening each drawer is like invading a personal space. It becomes almost uncomfortable to know to invade a personal space that has been exposed. Your identity is formed the way other people perceive you and in return this is how one perceives one self.