• Arlene Amaler-Raviv and Gabrielle Kaplan
    Hanover Street web-site
    James Mader - Untitled

    District Six Public Sculpture Festival - 1997

    The Sculpture Exhibition and Festival opened on Heritage Day, 24 September 1997, with a celebratory procession from the Grand Parade to the festival site in District Six, led by the Alibama Malay Choir. Members of the public and ex-resident community were invited to join the carnival troops, choirs, drum majorettes, sports groups, artists, civic groups and ex-residents in the procession.

    At the festival site the musical feast continued, with artists such as The Sunshine Singers, The Princess Square Singers, Zayn Adam, Prophets of da City, Brasse van die Kaap, Four Feet Deep, The Honeymoon Suites, Black Noise and Positive Black Soul (Senegal). There was also jazz and dance hall music performed by well-known local musicians. Throughout the day there was entertainment for the children, as well as a marquee with board games and stalls with food and refreshments. Performance art and dance pieces together with informal tours to the sculpture sites where artists talked about their work, added to the vibrancy of the day.

    Where does your mind take you when you think of public sculpture? A uniformed man on a horse, a monument on a hill, or the scar of District Six at the foot of Table Mountain?

    The Sculpture Festival in District Six offered artists an opportunity to challenge the nature of public art. The artists worked collectively, motivated by their own passions and convictions, with a shared commitment to the project. More than fifty artists - led by Kevin Brand, who was himself born in District Six - enthusiastically sought materials and equipment, pooled ideas and, inspired by stories told by ex-residents, worked together to create a sculptural landscape in District Six. Such collaboration however, did not hamper individual innovation, as the expression of diverse viewpoints was encouraged in public meetings and open discussions. In the process, the project challenged the elitism and inflated costs often characteristic of large public commissions.

    The sculptures varied in concept, scale, and material. The works were not intended to last beyond the duration of the exhibition although some would be bulldozed during the redevelopment of District Six. The reworking of the land mingled the historical processes of destruction and restitution with the creativity of the artists, the stories of the ex-residents and a renewed hope for the future.

    Since the sculptures were temporary by nature, the exhibition and festival was documented with video productions, sound recordings, photographs, and a catalogue.

    The District Six Sculpture Festival provided alternatives for art making and curating in South Africa. It brought a large group of artists together, who had different levels of visual literacy, skills and education. The exhibition included the artists on all levels of decision making, thereby encouraging artists to learn more about the administration of such an exhibition and empowering them with skills and knowledge.


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