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DAILY LIFE IN A SUITCASE (article first published : 2000-02-11)

In 1988, when South Africa was in the middle of a cultural boycott, Amsterdam-based graphic designer Lieke Grob, an decided to send a small suitcase containing a camera and her life-story to the Reverend Nico Smith, the only white man in Mamelodi township near Pretoria. She asked him to pass on the suitcase to a woman in or around Pretoria, and then asked the woman to hand it over to another one. Her aim was to gather as many life stories and photos as possible in order to gain an insight into the way South African women lived their lives, given their diverse backgrounds.

In 1977, after years of collecting material Grob wrote a proposal for exhibiting these stories and this resulted in the exhibition currently running at the Durban Art Gallery titled Daily Life in a Suitcase. Itís a multi-media installation portraying the daily life of eight South African women in big trunk cases.

Each trunk can be opened up to form a cupboard with a small writing table at which the visitor can sit. The cupboard contains different drawers, each one gives a description of the homes, the neighbourhood, the town, the family, work and leisure. Included is a short film about each woman. The installation focuses on the cultural identity of the women and their own position within their culture.

The women's cultures range from Ndebele to Afrikaner, spanning the spectrum of educated to illiterate women. In addition, the women's stories both directly and indirectly examine issues current in South Africa today, such as identity, security, mutual understanding and the role of women in the making of a multicultural society and their place within the Rainbow Nation.

The exhibition runs until April 30.




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