By Remy Raitt
On Heritage Day, the Union foyer was transformed into an exhibition space for an artwork competition entitled: Express your Heritage. This was coordinated by the Government Community and Information Systems (GCIS) along with Rhodes Music Radio and the Student Representative Council.
Students were encouraged to create artworks that represented their heritage in any medium of their choice. The best artwork would win R1000 from the Rhodes campus leg of the competition, and a chance of winning a further R10 000 in the national competition where they would compete with other winning students from across the country.
Although the Rhodes exhibition was not an extensive one due to “student apathy” as described by Mike Smurthwaite, a coordinator of the event, the few pieces that were on show all presented mixed messages on what heritage meant to the students exhibiting them.
One of the more interesting artworks was titled “Root of the Groove” by Nomagugu Nyathi. This was a sculpture of an acoustic guitar without a neck. “The sculpture is a comment on how modern music has its roots in primitive societies,” explained Nyathi. African rock art figures were painted on the instrument with roots and pods protruding from the open neck and sound hole respectively.
Above Nyathi’s African guitar hung the provocative watercolour entitled “Mouthful Sight”. The artist, Anongile Faxi, expresses “heritage pride is being watched by vomit” through her work. This statement is reiterated in the painting which portrays people of different cultures being watched through an open mouth.
On a less controversial note, Mayibongwe Xulu exhibited two pictures of herself in traditional dress entitled “Zulu Princess”. This artwork was displayed to voice her opinions on the fact that all the elements of South African culture come together to make her the person that she is.CDs entitled Cool G-Love and Cool G-Amazing were offered by Gcobani (Cool G) Sakhile as testaments of “the description of love” and “the ways of the world” respectively.
The exhibition became a space for the expression of different insights into what heritage means for each artist. It was important for each of them to interpret this differently, with each of their pieces, just as each of their cultures is different and unique.
Heritage Day is one of South Africa’s more recently created public holidays. It’s become a way in which to express the rich and varied culture that it holds. The day promises to encourage variety as a national asset rather than igniting conflict between all South Africans. Students were also encouraged to interact in the exhibition by making badges that expressed their heritage. The organisers provided a badge maker and brightly coloured kokis, which were used by students to create functional pieces that could be put on display.
Although the event was not as great of a success as the organisers had hoped, it still provided a unique platform for South Africa’s youth to take a stand and express their heritage.