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Defining Moments-Opening remarks Natalie Knight

Event Date: 
September 2008
Event Information: 

Defining Moments Opening Speech
By Natalie Knight

South Africans can well lay claim to the distinction of living in interesting times, and it certainly is exciting to watch history unfold.

Willy nilly, we have just experienced another Defining Moment as the newspapers screamed out the head-line’ Zuma Wins ‘. We will look back on September, 12 2008 as another turning point in South African history, when the twin towers of S. African law and justice were put under pressure.

Prophetically Sally Thompson chose the name Defining Moments to describe the art exhibition you are viewing here today as the artists have captured many of these moments and preserved them for all time.

This exhibition is a sequel to the show held at the Constitutional Court in July – where we celebrated the 90th birthday of our beloved Nelson Mandela. We have expanded the horizons considerably, adding new works and encompassing other memorable moments in South African history as well.

A feature of Defining Moments is the inclusion of major works by Jurgen Schadeberg, a photographer who arrived in S.Africa in 1950 and worked at the Drum Magazine. He has an incredible eye and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, he could not be here today as he is now living in Europe (and selling his work in Euros)

Jurgen says of photo number 1 “…when Mandela thought I had finished taking the pictures in his cell he relaxed somewhat, and turned around to smile.”

The Mandela smile is one which has captured the hearts of people around the world.
My husband Zamie and I were trying to work out if there was ever a leader who had commanded such universal love and respect as our Madiba. Consider that almost every powerful leader from Moses, to Napoleon, to Jack Kennedy who were all greatly revered by their followers nevertheless all had powerful detractors.
Nelson Mandela with his policy of forgiveness and reconciliation is unique and this is depicted on the exhibition.

We have a photograph of Madiba and Graca’s reaction to the works at the Constitutional Court at a private viewing of the show forging his enemies, his prison warder and even his ex wife (see pic with Winnie)

Mandela’s staff, ever protective, insisted that should be no-one could be present at the private viewing except a few of the Judges of the Con. Court.
We respected this requirement. Only Susan Woolf was fortunate enough to meet him but after seeing the show he expressed a desire to meet me and the other artists. We all had a wonderful visit to the Foundation. Talking about smiles – look at these smiles on the faces of the artists. What a gracious man.

In the next room on the right are Susan Woolf’s conceptual pieces.
The work, Witness: Shadow of Ubuntu requires careful study.
You will see 11 abstract shapes, carved in different woods.
This is a small sculpture of a proposed major public art work where each piece will be made of steel or aluminum approx 3 and half meters high. The total set of 11 sculptures will be about 30 meters in width. It should be set in a valley or a huge open space. The eleven sculptures which represent Witnesses, will tower above the visitors that walk amongst them.
From a distance with the sun shining the viewer will be able to read the shadows that they cast, which form the word UBUNTU. This occurs throughout the year every day between 10am and 11am. Ubuntu means respect for others and friendship, qualities which epitomize Nelson Mandela.
The glass table with steel shapes is also concerned with shadows. These shadows are in Pitmans shorthand and read Table of contents Note that the information is held in the intangible…Shadow, Light and Sound and that shorthand is based on sound.

The other pieces are part of the Healing series which follow on from the works entitled Towards Mandela. They are all made of Rooibos tea bags, resin and newspaper clippings and relate to Susan’s search to find a home for her maid Sophie.

Susan will be happy to give you further explanations of the works and Sally is also organizing a walk- about lecture by Susan during the run of the show.

In the next room and throughout the gallery are the works by Billy and Jane Makhubele. This husband and wife team, have created the beaded works on blue or black background following the format of the Shangaan nceka which is an item of clothing worn by Shangaan women. Billy saw the potential of the beaded fabric as a work of art and has recorded the recent history of South Africa in this way. Billy makes the selection (we only do the good news Billy told me) He designs the piece and Jane executes the design in beads or pins.

The images range from that of Mbeki holding the trophy when the SA rugby team won the World Cup, and scenes of Zuma Victorious at Polokwane. March to Freedom captioned in Shangaan, incorporates 8 historic scenes. Another piece of history is the 3 piece set of ncekas which depict Nelson Mandela casting his vote in 1994, 1999 and 2004.

Johannes Maswanganyi who like the Makhubeles still lives in Giyani in the Limpopo Province has carved his tribute to Madiba out of tree trunks.
They represent Mandela’s power, his search for peace, and the pride we all felt when South Africa won the bid to host the 2010 World Cup Soccer.

Roy Solomon Ndinisa’s images are carved into the woodblock and then painted. The designs are intricate and detailed. His vibrant carving – Musical Instruments include Roy’s idea of harmony between black and white using the symbolism of the keyboard.�

His most recent work Just free my People 2008, expresses his deep involvement with Mandela and his ideals.

Beverley Price presents a contemporary replica of the beaded Xhosa neckpiece worn by Nelson Mandela during his sentencing. Prices’ piece consists of concentric circles of tiny foiled images of Mandela’s life, chain-mailed into the form of a neck/shoulder adornment. Price has achieved international recognition for her work and the two necklaces featured on the show are all reproduced in books and catalogues. She has a unique talent and her work promises to become collector’s items. Her necklaces and bracelets of Mandela are available on order.

One of the differences between this show and that at the Con Ct is that these pieces are all available for sale – except for the neckpiece by Beverley Price which I am keeping – because it’s - well – priceless. And for everything else there is - your cheque book.

Congratulations to Sally and her team for the way in which they have displayed the art works. Thank you Sally, it has been wonderful working with you.

I hope that you all enjoy Defining Moments and I formally declare this exhibition open.