‘Remembering the SS Mendi’ exhibition to close

2017-06-07 06:03

THE Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum will be closing the exhibition Remembering the SS Mendi on June 8 with the launch of a new collection of poems on the Mendi tragedy, called The Cold Sea: Mendi Poems, composed by local school learners and members of the Nelson Mandela Bay community.

Contributors to the publication participated in poetry workshops facilitated by Brian Walter and assisted by Olwethu Mxoli and Leonie Williams. Selected poems will be performed on the night and will be accompanied by a recital of the famous hymn Ama-Gora e-Mendi.

Poetry has been central to the story of the SS Mendi.

Poet SEK Mqhayi, who was the Imbongi ye Sizwe (National Bard) of the Xhosa people at the time of the First World War, felt deeply about the disaster as he had played a formative role in the recruitment campaign through a poem that he wrote calling men to arms titled, The Black Army.

In response to the tragedy, he wrote UKUTSHONA KUKAMEND(The sinking of the Mendi), which kept the memory of the event alive in the oral narrative of the Xhosa communities in the Eastern Cape during the Apartheid years when black historical events were written out of the history books.

The Remembering the SS Mendi exhibition reimagined the tragic event in a vast series of tableaux depicting the brave men of the Fifth Battalion, the South African Native Labour Corps, who died in this nautical disaster.

It was first exhibited in 1993 at the National Art’s Festival held in Grahamstown. The Art Museum purchased the exhibition for the collection in 1995.

Remembering the tragic loss of life when the SS Mendi sank, has become a rallying point in Post-Apartheid South Africa to recover the lost history of black soldiers and the role these men played in World War One.

To complement the closing event, the Friends of the Art Museum asked Hillary Graham to conduct a walkabout of his exhibition on June 8 at 3pm.

Graham will also conduct a drawing workshop on June 10 at the Harbour from 9am to 11am.

The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum is open on weekdays, excluding Tuesday mornings, from 9am to 5pm. Entry is free.

For more info contact 041 506 2000 or go to www.artmuseum.co.za.

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