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WOMEN’S ROLE HONOURED (article first published : 2003-08-19)

In honour of all the women who have made sacrifices in order to facilitate socio-political change in South Africa, the BAT Centre presents a series of exhibitions until the end of August.

Beyond the Body running in the Menzi Mchunu Gallery is the result of a week-long interactive women's workshop held at the BAT Centre in celebration of National Women's Day. It is the collaboration between nine young female artists working in a range of mediums, including visual art, poetry, performance and dance. The workshop aimed to provide participants with the space to enable them to exchange their expertise and experiences of what it is to be a woman in a province where “the more things change, the more they stay the same” for the fairer sex.

The focal point of the workshop was the development of a performance piece, fusing fine art, poetry and dance. The workshop also facilitated the creation of an exhibition celebrating female political leaders - veterans whose lives were, and remain, an inspiration for the women who followed them.

The participating artists are wide-ranging in their work and experience: Strongly influenced by poetry, Silondile Jali is a first year graphic design student at the Durban Institute of Technology focusing on drawings in oil pastel. Yvette Dunn, in her second year of study towards a Fine Arts degree at DIT, is majoring in ceramics and printmaking and her current work deals with the concept of honesty. A former DIT student who now works full time as an artist, Ntombifuthi Ngcobo is influenced strongly by the work of the late Bonny Ntsalintsali and Ben Nsusha.

Bandile Gumbi is a performance poet who currently works at UND's Centre for Creative Arts. A BSC graduate from UND, her poetry focuses on the theme My People's Tongue which is interwoven in the current exhibition. Dineo Bopape, a third year student at DIT majoring in sculpture and painting, explores issues of identity and privacy in her work. In collaboration with the rest of the group, she explores notions of moving beyond the restrictions of the corporeal in Beyond the Body while remaining informed by living flesh and the body's stored memory.

The BAT Centre’s Democratic Gallery celebrates the struggles of ordinary and extraordinary women in KZN with a black and white photographic exhibition by Rafs Mayet and Cedric Nunn. Rafs and Cedric have established solid reputations as documentary photographers in a competitive field where exploitation of human pain is all too common. Rafs and Cedric never fall prey to this temptation, however. Their work is deeply honest, compassionate and painstaking.

Capturing the essence of a human experience often demands great discomfort on the part of the photographer. Long journeys to far-off parts of the province, even longer hours waiting for the ideal shot to present itself, and the turbulent emotions elicited by exposure to others' conflict. This is an exhibition not to be missed and one that promises to linger in the memory.

Fifteen Women and Jacob is an exhibition of coloured photographs by novice photographers, on the theme My Home, My Environment, also running in the Democratic Gallery.

In celebration of National Women's Day, the BAT Centre ran a week-long photographic workshop for women. Jacob was a welcome addition to the team, having decided that he wasn't going to allow his dream of learning to take good photographs to be thwarted by the fact that BAT initially advertised places on the course for women only. His instinctive feeling for the medium, and excellent eye, made him a very welcome addition to the team.

The workshop was conducted by former DIT educationist Ivan Baard and documentary/news photographer Rafs Mayet. Most of the course participants had never held a camera before and their remarkable progress gives an exciting foretaste of what can be achieved by determined novices. All students utilised identical, auto focus Nikon “mik en druk” cameras and the highly individualistic results achieved in this manner make for fascinating viewing. This is the first in a series of planned photographic workshops at the BAT.

The above exhibitions were made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Department of Arts and Culture.




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