Archive: Issue No. 122, October 2007

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Look at Me: Women for Children catalogue
reviewed by Carol Brown

Art for Humanity, based at the Durban University of Technology and led by artist and lecturer Jan Jordaan, has produced some significant activist projects. The organisation was established in 1988 as an ad hoc committee called Artists for Human Rights. With the advent of South Africa's new Bill of Rights in 1996 Art for Humanity invited 27 artists to celebrate the occasion with the Images of Human Rights Print Portfolio. This gave birth to the Artists for Human Rights Trust and led to the publication of Universal Declaration of Human Rights International Print Portfolio in 1999. Their next project was the Break The Silence HIV/Aids portfolio. This became the basis for the growing vision of Art for Humanity - to employ art in public advocacy campaigns focusing on these ills. During this campaign they realized the vulnerability of children both to HIV/Aids and other illnesses and abuse. This led to the Women for Children Project which is distinguished by the collaboration between artists and poets.

This programme has taken the form of exhibitions, poetry events, billboards, poster and catalogue programmes which have brought the initiative to a wide and diverse audience.

Look at Me is a catalogue of the various processes of the project and contains images of each artwork as well as each poem and a comprehensive documentation of the project and its history. It is a valuable resource for visual researchers especially as much of art in the public sphere, such as billboards, is unrecorded. The text includes biographies of all the artists and poets involved in the project as well as artists' statements and translations of parts of poems into all 11 official languages.

Articles on related themes of children and social issues by a number of local and international experts in their fields are included. These include Nigel Rollins, Jan Jordaan, Bianca Bothma, Mari Pete, Dr Maria Letsie, Adri Van der Maas, Yvonne Slipe, Angela Buckland, Judy Hussie-Taylor and Poovie Reddy.

Documentary photographs of billboards in situ in various urban and rural areas of the country are an important documentation. The Billboard campaign is a welcome intervention in the art sphere in that it takes the art out of the traditional gallery setting and makes it available to a much wider audience. Art for Humanity has made great strides to straddle the gap between the conventional art audiences and the wider community and the issues which they highlight need to be taken out of institutional settings and into the real public arena. The impact of any form of art is always difficult to gauge but it seems obvious that the wider afield the artwork is disseminated the greater the impact will be - the extensive use of the billboard by the advertising industry proves this. It is then highly appropriate that messages about social issues should make use of this medium and this project deserves commendation for its efforts to reach out to the public and to continue striving for a better society.

The documentation and information contained in the book will be of interest to both art and social science researchers. For more information about the project, email: afh@dut.ac.za or visit www.afh.org.za


 

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