Cape Town photographer's exhibition on whiteness smeared with faeces

2019-11-13 16:14
Faeces and permanent marker on the photo exhibition in the Company's Garden in Cape Town. (Supplied by Sydelle Willow Smith)

Faeces and permanent marker on the photo exhibition in the Company's Garden in Cape Town. (Supplied by Sydelle Willow Smith)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

A Cape Town photographer is unfazed by the defacing of her public exhibition on whiteness, saying it is an "expression of engagement" in a conversation which the country needs to have.

Sydelle Willow Smith's exhibition, titled Un/Settled, opened in the Company's Garden in the CBD last week and is formally part of the Infecting the City public arts festival, which starts on Monday.

The project started five years ago after she felt the need to redress the way that photography had been used as a tool of "othering".

Her hope had been that, by turning the lens on the world she accessed as a white South African, people would engage and carry on a conversation that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had attempted to address.

She interviewed a diverse array of white people to show that their histories were not homogenous, but that the benefits of whiteness cut across the board, based on the country's history.

Smith was notified on Tuesday morning that someone had rubbed human faeces all over her photo boards and written the word "fools" across them with a permanent marker.

"I don't feel that is necessarily vandalism. I see it as an expression of engagement," she told News24 on Wednesday.

"For me, it is an expression of unspoken anger around the lack of honest conversations about identity and race in South Africa. There has been a dangerous use of 'Simunye [we are one], the rainbow nation myth, stronger together, rugby is going to save everything' without looking underneath, looking at the realities of how unequal society is."

In one of her artworks, she speaks with Shane Lukhanyo Eades, who is a sangoma in training.

He tells her: "White privilege is horrific. Even I sit here on white privilege. I work damn hard for my money, but it's so much easier because I am white. You have an unfair starting block without a ball and chain".

Smith said that, unlike an art gallery, there was a rawness to having her art in a public environment like the gardens, which had a huge population of people living on the street and people of different economic backgrounds.

(Supplied by Sydelle Willow Smith)

(Supplied by Sydelle Willow Smith)

She anticipated that people on social media would tell her to stop playing the race card.

"My feeling is you can move on and be united if you are actually willing to look in the mirror and look at yourself and confront the entitledness, from the way you speak to the shop attendant to the way you demand space," she said.

"It's about humbling yourself and living as South Africans. We can stop playing the race card when we have these conversations. This is meant to be a public conversation."

With photographs documenting the defacing, Smith has paid for the exhibition to be cleaned so that people can still read the text.

Her exhibition in Government Avenue may stay up for a while after the festival ends later this month, or be moved to another location.


Read more on:    cape town  |  racism  |  culture
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 

Matric Results are coming soon!

Notify me when results become available

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.