Archive: Issue No. 51, November 2001

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The 'Homeport' poster

'Homeport' to open at V&A Waterfront

One of the year's most unusual art events opens on Saturday December 8 when the Public Eye curated project 'Homeport' is launched from the SA Maritime Museum at the V&A Waterfront. 'Homeport' has been described by its Rotterdam initiators, Cell, as "a sea voyage through six harbour cities located on different continents". Cape Town is the sixth city to host a 'Homeport' project, following Havana, Rotterdam, Mumbai, Shanghai and Jakarta.

All harbour cities have special qualities, playing an important role in the economic and cultural life of the country, home to those who work there, and host to the international visitors, sailors and adventurers who pass through. The 16 Cape Town artists taking part in 'Homeport' have been asked to consider this theme in their projects, and to use text in some way to communicate their ideas. Flags, codes, messages are hidden or revealed in locations around the harbour.

In Havana, a festival of Salsa, Cuban and contemporary dance was staged in the harbour area, where dockworkers and their families live. That was in April. In July, it was the turn of the host city, Rotterdam; representatives of each city travelled there to present their project proposals, and four Rotterdam artists exhibited media installations in public spaces. In August, in Shanghai, BizArt staged a round-the-clock event for two days in the city's popular Fuxing Park, featuring video installations. In Mumbai in September, internationally known film personality Amrit Gangor pursued the "tradition of storytelling in the City of Illusion", and with his 'Harbourline' project, invited storytellers to recite fragments of harbour stories and urban legends. In Jakarta in November, an open-air cinema in a dockworkers area showed film and video productions, tying in closely with an international film festival taking place in the city.

'Homeport' Cape Town kicks off with a gala afternoon centring around the Maritime Museum, next to the Aquarium, and Cell initiators Antoinette te Paske and Nathalie Houtermans will fly out for the event. A navy band will play, free catalogues will be available with maps, showing the location of all the different art projects, and a water ferry will take visitors from one location to another. Throughout the waterfront area, special signage will indicate the presence of a nearby installation. Painted on walls, floating near the dockside, showing on a video monitor in the cinema complex, the work of the 'Homeport' artists will be found round every corner.

Photographer Jean Brundrit will turn a container into a giant pinhole camera. Once inside, visitors will see a magical inversion of Table Mountain floating on the back wall. Alan Alborough's work may be seen at the main flag mast outside the V&A shopping centre. Sound artist Warrick Sony will play an ode to drowned sailors and James Webb will broadcast a sound piece from the Clock Tower. Vuyisa Nyamende will present an impudent video collage, and Malcolm Payne has devised an exchange in semaphore and Morse code between two facing video monitors. Randy Hartzenberg will consider the politics of the past, and Andrew Putter, working with Natasha Becker, will transfer some of the most popular tattoos of famous Woodstock tattooist Jimmy Adams onto walls. Roderick Sauls will consider the heritage of the coons and William Hewett will write a sea poem on a fence. Peering through dockside telescopes, visitors will pick up messages inscribed by Bridget Baker, and Doreen Southwood will half-submerge her words in water. Peet Pienaar will ask passersby for comment, Barend de Wet will find harbourside rubble to write the names of the other ports in large letters, and John Nankin is keeping his final piece a surprise, even from the curators.

The co-ordinators for Public Eye are Brett Murray, Sue Williamson and Robert Weinek. Researchers were Andrew Putter and Natasha Becker. Catalogue editor is Paul Edmunds.

'Homeport' is being presented in conjunction with the V&A Waterfront, and will run until January 15. Visitors wishing to view the works should make their first port of call the Maritime Museum to pick up the catalogue with the map.