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SUITCASE ART (article first published : 2000-03-17)

The fascinating Daily Life in a Suitcase is running at the Durban Art Gallery until April 30. This is a multi-media installation portraying the daily life of eight South African women in big trunk cases.

The project was launched by Amsterdam-based graphic designer Lieke Grob in 1988. 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. She started the ball rolling by placing a camera and her own life story inside a suitcase and sending it to the Reverend Nico Smith in Mamelodi township, asking him pass on the suitcase to a woman living in or around Pretoria. This woman was then asked to hand it over to another one and so the project grew until 1997 when Lieke Grob was able to select sufficient material to create Daily Life in a Suitcase.

A curator’s dream in terms of set-up time, the exhibition is self-contained – arriving in eight massive wooden trunks. 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 with a description of the homes, neighbourhood, town, family, work and leisure of each woman. Also included is a short film about her and the installation as a whole focuses on the cultural identity of the women and their own position within their culture.




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