“R5,” evokes a common symbol in South Africa, the five-rand coin, and provides a way of remembering five critical issues with which South African artists struggle:
- Remembrance: the intertwined and contested histories of varied people groups.
- Resistance: the old, vivid, and continuing tradition of prophetic artistry.
- Reconciliation: persistent questions over how to justly reconcile aggrieved people.
- Representation: in a post-colonial, multicultural society, who may represent whom?
- Re-visioning: how does hope factor into artistic imagination?
In June 2013, a team of ten North American and ten Southern African artists gathered for a two-week seminar and studio event that engaged these issues and questions, saw how they created art in response to them, and asked how this South African encounter might inspire fresh artistic work. Through site visits in both Johannesburg and Capetown that included art galleries, studios, the Apartheid Museum, Voortrekker Monument, District 6 Museum, and a trip to Robben Island, the group reflected on their daily encounters and noted the common observation, often to the point of cliché, that South Africa is a “study in contrasts.”
Once the sites visits concluded, the artistic experimentation began with studio time the final four days of the seminar. A long session was held in which each member was able to point to the concepts or images or questions that they wanted to emphasize. There were some salient and recurring themes that held great promise for a coherent--and significant--exhibit.
The resulting exhibition Between the Shadow and the Light presents the artist as both piercing prophet and hopeful seer, and pushes viewers to consider the resonance of South Africa for North America and beyond. The exhibition includes 45 works in painting, sculpture, photography, collage, textile and book arts, installation, assemblage, new media and video. These works range from narrative to conceptual in a variety of styles and approaches. Together they create a vibrant visual conversation on issues relevant to us all no matter what our nationality or circumstance.