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Pippa Skotnes

Die Kaapse kunstenares, Pippa Skotnes, was in 1987 die eerste wenner van ‘n Helgaard Steyn Toekenning vir haar portefeulje Lament/Klaagsang. Dit is in 1985 as deel van ‘n portefeulje getiteld Shelter/Skuiling uitgegee.

Skotnes is an artist, curator, author and director of the Centre for Curating the Archive, University of Cape Town. She has obtained an M.A. degree (Fine Arts) and a D.Lit. degree. During her years of study she received eight scholarships and grants that enabled her to travel to the USA and Europe.

Her major interests include book-arts, curatorship, representation and the San (in particular rock art and the Bleek and Lloyd archive), and the visual as a site of meaning.

Major projects have included various pub- lications around the Bleek and Lloyd archive (housed at UCT’s Manuscripts and Archives library, Iziko and the National Library), including Sound from the thinking strings (1991, that won the UCT Book Award); In the wake of the white wagons (1993, that was the Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner exhibition); Miscast: negotiating the presence of Bushmen (1996, that accompanied a major exhibition at the SA National Gallery); The digital Bleek and Lloyd, a complete, searchable digital archive published with the book Claim to the Country (2007); Unconquerable Spirit: George Stow’s history paintings of the San 2008, accompanied by an exhibition at Iziko South African Museum).

More recently, Skotnes published Rock art made in translation (2010, to accompany an exhibition at the Iziko SANG) and Landscape to literature (2011), a catalogue to the exhibition of the same name at the Michaelis Galleries, that marked the century conference of the publication of Bleek and Lloyd’s Specimens of Bush- man folklore.

The Lament/Klaagsang-series of four etchings shows poor, but not unfriendly or uninviting, kitchen interiors. The empty holders (cans, bottles and a bucket) have their own “life”, that of being lifeless.

Ballot (1988) shares the thought that the series portrays the result of a full existence in an almost audible silence and shadowed atmosphere. This is something that could remind one of the decaying and futility of earthly goods, as the users, even though absent in the work, have been involved indirectly.

In two of the etchings in the series there is an element of life portrayed, by means of a flying owl, a symbol of wisdom, attribute of darkness, the night or even the human soul. In one etching the owl is shown in full and, in another, only the point of its wing is seen.

Do the owl’s fluttering and ultimately trapped presence perhaps attempt to symbolise the factors of uneasiness, threat, deprived freedom, or even the inevitable death in this type of social context, clearly portrayed by the interiors?

According to Werth (1987) the social commentary about the current cultural-political circumstances under which we live in South Africa is no strange occurrence or subject in the arts. This theme has been addressed from the beginning of the decade. Artists either portray a positive or negative involvement through their work. “Unfortunately” artists are regarded by viewers and authorities as rebels, as being radical and immoral, and part of sinful elements in the society when they try to share social commentary through their work. Werth further states that what artists are actually trying to do, is make a contribution to the arts and in no way act like rebels, even though circumstances in our country make them feel uneasy or cause discomfort.

Lament/Klaagsang I,II,III,IV (1985), etching on paper, 68 x 47.5cm each Pretoria Art Museum, City of Tshwane

Photos courtesy of Helenus Kruger –
Communication, Marketing and Events, City of Tshwane.