In her article ‘What makes a home?’, Livia Gershon comes to the conclusion that, ‘… eventually almost all of us accepted the idea of the home as a private refuge from the outside world.’ While this statement is valid, one cannot help but consider the statement as idealistic, as home can be distorted by societal hierarchies, exploitation, distancing and marginalisation.
Curated by Khanya Mashabela, the exhibition draws on the struggle we as people experience in establishing a sense of self and investigates our means of creating a place for ourselves, physically and psychologically. Furthermore, the exhibition investigates the various ways in which a certain location can serve as a place of alienation or affirmation. The curation of the exhibition space explores the notions of being in the centre, or bound to the margins, being replaced, resettled, or an outlaw and the meaning it all holds in the consideration of a certain place as ‘home’. The exhibition also holds an ambiguity in the representation of specific geographic and cultural contexts due to references that are not always understood without knowledge of the places referenced. What may be home to some, is a place of isolation and despondency to another. There is thus an intersection between place and identity that is explored within the ‘impossible journey home’. Author David Foster refers to the struggle of establishing a sense of self as ‘[o]ur endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home.’ It is thus the process and affliction that goes with establishing a home for self that becomes home.
In the video/performance, Grond Herinneringe (2015), artist Bronwyn Katz re-enacts motions and games from her childhood. In one of the frames she also bathes her feet in soil from her hometown. The video conveys a nostalgic act of personal remembrance, whilst conveying an assertion of the right that marginalised communities have to be remembered. Through her art practice she captures the notion of land as an archive of memory and trauma, reflecting on the ideas of place and space as lived experience, as well as the ability of the land to recall and communicate the history of its occupation. Katz’s approach to her art practice is motivated by storytelling and intuition. Her work refers to the political context of their making, containing subtle acts of resistance that draw attention to the social structures and margins that continue to define our environments.
In the exhibition two artworks of Gladys Mgudlandlu are exhibited, Suburb (With Table Mountain) (1964) and Nyanga Landscape (1962). In her paintings Mgudlandlu follows a natural feeling of rhythm and colour, whilst using strong pattern and gestural brushstrokes. She described her work as a mixture between expressionism and impressionism and herself as a dreamer ‘imaginist’. With her landscapes Mgudlandlu indirectly reminds the viewer of how the ownership of land has embodied South African nationhood.
In the artwork Suburb (With Table Mountain) (1964), Mgudlandlu stands as an admiring outsider in her portrayal of the suburban landscape. What may appear as common to the inhabitants of the suburban area, seems as an impossible ideal to those forced to live on the outskirts. The white walls and red roofs observed from a high vantage point is according to Amanda Botha what is known to be the now demolished district six, viewed from Woodstock. The period in which the painting was created was during the time of which the inhabitants of District Six was moved to the Cape Flats. With a disregard for conventional perspective, Mgudlandlu transformed reality into her personal experience thereof.
In the artwork Nyanga Landscape (1962) the dusty, barren Nyanga Landscape stands in contrast to the green, colourful appearance of the Suburb (With Table Mountain) (1964) artwork. She includes a uniformed row of people, which suggests a sense of community, which Mgudlandlu realised she would not have experienced in the central suburbs. In this artwork Mgudlandlu observes as an insider, described by the Nyanga people as ‘the African queen’.
The two artworks stand in contrast not only due to the landscape appearance, but also due to the fact that she experiences the one from the perspective of an outsider and the other as a place intimately active within her personal landscape. While the one appears as an ideal and perhaps a subtle desire to reach, the other serves as a place of community and home.
My home and your home is a construct. It is the acceptance of structures to which we are bound and the generating thereof into community and belonging.