I've been working on this collection for a while now, since about early February of this year. Its now August so the project has taken on a few different forms since then, so I thought I would give you an over view of the journey.
Its a bit complicated to tell you the truth, because initially I wanted to do a project looking at the women in my family and their stories, but I felt at the time that maybe this wasn't big enough and maybe there was just too many things to not say. So I started to think about what I really wanted to say. Which is a quick way to get yourself in trouble.
I had recently gotten back from a trip I took to South Africa with my family, to see my Grandmother for her 80th birthday. South Africa, like so many places have a troubled history, which it is still trying to come to terms with. The trip was eye opening in many ways, there was so many things to say, both good and bad and I was struggling to comprehend them all.
In Pretoria, a town about an hours drive away from Johannesburg there is monument to the Voortrekkers. The name given to the Dutch colonists of South Africa, who I am descended from. I cannot however trace my family back to these original group of nine expedition parties who originally left the Cape Colony and attempted expansion eastwards. The monument stands on top of a hill and in the center of the granite building there is a cenotaph. On the floor above is the hall of heroes, which has a large hole in the center of it, from which the cenotaph is visible. On the 16th of December every year at 12 O'clock a ray light shines in through the dome at the top of the building, through the hall of heroes and onto the cenotaph. It represents Gods blessing on the Voortrekkers.
The monument which was built in the 1930's, is typical of the period a large rectangular structure that has a large set of stairs leading up to a women surrounded by her children who guards the entrance to the hall of heroes. Which is an empty room except for the large hole in the middle and the granite carved murals on the wall, depicting the memorable events of the great migration. These marble murals proved to be a subject of deep conflict for me. The events they depicted and the people in them where real. These things did happen. However, it was obvious to me, maybe because I have the luxury of not really belonging anywhere, to see that the story was more complicated than the mural implied. That perhaps their great heroes were not fearlessly leading, that the attacks endured bravely where not unprovoked. The thing I have found in my meager 22 years, is that troubled histories are troubled because we are not all telling the same story, or perhaps we don't all even know the same story.
At the start off this project I kept thinking about walking up those steps into the hall of heroes. I kept thinking about how easy it was to tell this narrative and how surreal it felt to see this narrative carved in stone, and to know it wasn't true, but it was true. These things did happen, but that wasn't all that happens.
This project started of with me trying to comprehend that moment, but of course design is never linear and the turns I took got me to a very different place. But that's a whole different story