A Process of Remembering: Heritage Day through the lens of the ArtbankSA Collection
Written by Gemma Hart
Culture is not fixed. It ebbs and flows from one generation to the next. Our ancestors and elders bequeath to us gifts of knowledge and embodied knowing. Yet sometimes we forget. When the rituals that contain and connect us are lost, we become untethered from our communities and unable to contain the depth of wisdom acquired before us. Heritage Day offers an opportunity to remember. Not only to bask in the richness of our own traditions, but also acknowledge and appreciate the customs of others.
Image: Primrose Chimhanda, (from left-to-right) Bo-Kaap | South Africa, Soweto | South Africa, Cape Dutch | South Africa, AmaXhosa | South Africa, AmaZulu | South Africa. 2020, Digital Art printed as Giclee Print on Hahnemule German Etching Paper, 420 x 594mm. ArtbankSA Collection
Mandisa Buthelezi, Maidens of the Nazareth Baptist Church, 2019, Photography, Fine Art Rag (certified archival paper), 594 x 841mm. ArtbankSA collection
Photographer Mandisa Buthelezi’s work is centred as an exploration of identity and spirituality. She feels called to document and sustain cultural memory through her creative practice. The evocative piece, Maidens of the Nazareth Baptist Church (2019) forms part of a larger project to capture the cultural ceremonies of one of the largest African- initiated churches in the country. Founded in 1910 by missionaries, the church coalesces Christian and Zulu customs. Spiritual camps are often held to instruct a religious education. The maidens are divided into two groups: amaSheshakungena are the younger maidens and the older ones are called amakhosazane. The striking black and white photographic work captures three maidens shrouded in their white garb. The candid moment evokes a sense of honoured awe and mystery – a lens into the sacred and the unknown.
Image: Takalani Ligege, Best Foot Forward, 2018. Oil on canvas, 1100 x 900mm. ArtbankSA Collection
A moment of ritual is also depicted by Takalani Ligege in Best Foot Forward (2018). The artist is from Thohoyandou in Limpopo and takes pride in representing Venda culture. The painting is part of a series, ‘Dancing Shadows’ in which Ligege illustrates the beauty of traditional customs. He believes that artists are cultural custodians of their people and are duty-bound to preserve heritage. The layered brushstrokes render limber legs in motion. Ankles are adorned with vhukunda and cast elongated shadows onto bare earth. During the culturally significant ‘Domba Python Dance’, during the final stage of an initiation into womanhood, young maidens form a single-file dancing line to wind along a path like the great python. Best Foot Forward offers a call-to-action, that regardless of genealogy, we can honour our forebears and dance a path for our future.
Published courtesy of National Museum Publications.