At the moment my work is very object orientated. I take photographs of favorite or meaningful objects from my collection, then use the photos to make the scraperboards. Most of the objects were discarded by either my mother, grandmother, or grand-aunts. They have no value other than either sentimental value, or that they remind me of some episode or person in my past.
Two things – a book, and a visit to a museum, made me appreciate the tradition of the display cabinet that stood in almost every family’s “front room” during the 19th and 20th century, and where a lot of my objects were displayed.
The book was given to me as Christmas present by my son-in-law Theuns, who shares a love of books with me. It is called “A History of the World in a 100 Objects”, written by the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor. According to the blurb: “The book takes a dramatically original approach to the history of humanity by using objects which previous civilizations have left behind them, often accidentally, as prisms through which we can explore the past.”
The exhibition at the National Cultural Historical Museum that I am referring to, also makes use of arbitrary objects. The staff members of this Pretoria Museum were given the opportunity to display some of the objects in their care that were part of collections donated to the museum, but that would possibly not normally have been included in their displays. Some of the objects came to the museum in interesting ways, like our famous mummy, that arrived strapped to the back of its owner riding a bicycle!
Objects that caught my attention were for instance the pair of sandals made by Mahatma Gandhi for General Jan Smuts, clearly worn very often, the showcase full of Japanese dolls associated with the girls’ and boy’s Festivals, and the Japanese lady’s shoes, those tiny ones only worn by ladies who had their feet tied up since childhood.
The museum calls their exhibit “Objects with Stories”, and reminded me so much of my own pieces, however humble, because these objects represent the history of a family, and reflect our cultural background, tell the stories of our disappointments, triumphs and hopes.