Amidst the current violent protests, a group of high school learners from Pretoria made their voices heard in a different manner on Monday 31 October 2016. In a non-obtrusive pop-up intervention, the Art Department at a Pretoria-based School blindfolded the statues of the 55 struggle heroes of the National Heritage Monument, situated in the Groenkloof Nature Reserve.
The project was organised under the umbrella of Cool Capital, a citizen-led design initiative based in Pretoria, which orchestrates a school art project bi-annually. The project pairs high schools with professional artists to expose learners to the arts by collectively working on an art project. The theme for Cool Capital 2016 was “Small is Big” and participants were encouraged to investigate how small interventions can send a strong message. The school, who worked with artist Diane Victor, decided that their project would counteract the violent protests with a subtle message of hope.
A short, but powerful, message was translated into all 11 official languages of South Africa, carved into lino and printed onto strips of material which were then used as blindfolds. The act of blindfolding these heroes was done out of respect and honour for what the characters have done for their country and their people. To blindfold someone can have many meanings but in this case, and by definition, it is to metaphorically hinder them from seeing and especially comprehending the current turmoil, tension, destruction and unrest in South Africa.
The blindfolds contain a message of hope in all 11 official languages, and is directly linked to the concept of blindfolding. Hope also means to trust blindly in something bigger than your current situation or circumstances.
According to the learners, their intention is for the sculptures (and all South Africans) to look beyond reality and have confidence what cannot be seen yet. This art intervention calls all South Africans to become blind to our differences, and instead focus on what our heroes have fought for. Working in hope together, we work for change and a prosperous united future.
Image: Diane Victor places a message of hope over the eyes of a struggle hero’s statue: Photo by Alet Pretorius