my doilies & other bittersweet memories

Artworks and a Creative Process by Naretha Pretorius

Hier kom ‘n transformasie (Here comes a transformation)

It has been a while since my last post, simply because it has been a while since I completed my masters studies and thus a long time since I have made art or thought about my art, my childhood, my identity and the likes.

I have a feeling that my thoughts might become a bit more prominent again and that I will write about it again… why?  Well, life is taking me on a new journey.  I am another son richer (welcome beautiful little Ludovic), and I resigned from my company after 13 years of loyal service, and joined the world of public academia.   And with academia comes the need to learn, study and to engage in critical thinking.

With thinking comes questions, with questions comes the need to find answers.  Someone asked me the other day what I believe transformation means, especially in a South African context… and it made me think.  I asked myself: “what does transformation mean to me as a white Afrikaner female?” and “what does transformation mean for the people in a country like South Africa, especially considering that it’s one of the most used words in our media?”.

In 1994 with the first democratic elections, and with the end of Apartheid, the political ‘instruction’ to the public of South Africa was that we needed to transform.  How does an entire country that consists of 11 official languages, and a myriad of colourful cultures and races transform as a ‘unity’?  How does an individual that forms part of a larger cultural group transform if you are not even sure what you are transforming into?  Transformation in South Africa ‘happened to us’, and close to 20 years later we are still transforming and trying to make sense of it.  So where does the transformation start, and what are we transforming into?

These questions might lead to my PhD studies, and it might be the exact kind of questions that require answering in our country.  With looking into these questions, means that yet another transformation is on it’s way, a new journey of awareness will start presenting new discoveries, meaning and realisations.

What is your understanding of transformation?  What is your experience of transformation? What does it mean to you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


My Journey of Awareness: Dissertation


Attached is my dissertation as submitted to the Durban University of Technology.  I graduated in 2012 Cum Laude and was awarded the Dean’s Merit Award for excellence.  An honour and great way to end this study journey.  My blog has been most helpful in this process and I thank everyone that engaged in it.

Many people influenced and inspired my study, but special gratitude goes to Prof Joan Conolly whom has become a dear friend and mentor, and continues to do so.

Enjoy reading my dissertation,

Naretha (aka Anna M Pretorius)

My Journey of Awareness: A Study in Memory, Identity and Creative Development

Controversy: Artist removed from show

Celeste Coetzee: Recent Art Show (image sourced from:

Celeste Coetzee, an art student from UNISA, was recently asked to remove her work, and by that her self, from an art show because she ‘posed’ partly in the nude by exposing her breasts.  The controversy heated when she started tearing pages from the Bible, while set in a kitchen environment, and half dressed in Voortrekker clothing.  The artist commented on the patronising behaviour towards women as condoned and reinforced in a patriarchal society, especially in a conservative Afrikaner Calvinistic environment.  This is a social comment I also looked at and addressed in my Masters Study and exhibition; ‘Onthaal Onthul’.  Coetzee however, tackled the bull by the horns in a more direct way, whereas my work commented in a more subtle manner on the submissive positioning of women within the Calvinistic Afrikaner community by using tea serving metaphors layered with subtext.  It was this directness in her social commentary that left a bitter taste in the Franschhoek community’s mouths, and a heated topic that is now filling quite a few online pages with controversial viewpoints.

Read the article written by Michelle Jones:

Coetzee is doing what artists are supposed to do: deliver meaningful comments on social injustice, whether current or past issues.  I am fascinated by the Curator’s comments when she stated: “As a gallery, that’s not the message we want to portray. She’s very negative to the old Afrikaner, Christian patriarchal system. She was trying to be the vulnerable woman suffering under the system. But women are not under that system anymore.” (Jones, 2009)

I am curious to know where this story will go, what the critical conversations will be.  Here we sit with a sensitive issue of an artist delivering her comment, possibly driven by her own experiences, and a curator that decided to silence her voice, reinforcing how women (and artists) are often silenced.  Is this issue really something of the past?  Read the marriage sacrament of the Reformed Church and you will see that it is not ( see ‘formuliere’).  In my opinion and from my own experiences as a woman in a ‘new’ South Africa, gender inequality, whether governed by religion, politics or policies still live in most of our environments; our professional, educational, political and personal and domestic spaces and that it is not limited to Afrikaner communities.  We should have more artists like Coetzee that has the courage to expose herself as she did (literally and metaphorically), it takes guts to do what she did, and I congratulate her for raising her artist’s voice!

I hope to see more from Celeste Coetzee, and that this incident will drive her to produce more of her meaningful work.

Naretha Pretorius

Mail & Guardian Article: Onthaal Onthul

Below the article for Onthaal Onthul in the Mail & Guardian, 24-30 June 2011, written by Alex Sudheim.

Complete article

Detail from Article

Interview with Robyn Cook: Onthaal Onthul

Robyn Cook interviewed me a while back asking interesting questions about Onthaal Onthul and my thinking and methodology, the interview is available for you to read on

Onthaal Onthul – Catalogue (the story)

Hello friends!

I have written a book (catalogue) that accompanied my exhibition, Onthaal Onthul (27 June-16July 2011).  The catalogue was done in print format and made available at the show.  For those that could not attend, or that could not get their hands on the printed version, here’s the pdf format for you to download.  I would love to hear your feedback.



Onthaal Onthul Book_NPretorius2011

Onthaal Onthul – Opened at artSPACE durban

My first solo exhibition, Onthaal Onthul,  opened Monday night, 27 June 2011, at artSPACE durban, 3 Millar road, Durban.  The show will be up for three weeks and will close 16 July, 2011 at 1pm.

All artworks are for sale, as well as a book written, edited and published by me.  The book tells my research, creative and personal story in the form of poetry (in Afrikaans, my mother tongue, as well as in English).  The poetry is juxtaposed with numerous artworks contextualising my work.  My story tells of a life history lived and experienced during Apartheid, I speak of my upbringing within a conservative white Afrikaner community, and highlight critical social issues such as gender inequality as experienced in my community and as governed by the Reformed Church.

My work, as well as my book, is a subtle and gentle collection raising critical concerns by portraying notions of feminine beauty situated within a darker context.

The three dark churches, titled ‘Voorgesit, Voorgegee en nou Verlate’ (Served, Pretended and now Desolate) epitomizes my emotive response to my childhood memories of conservative and dogmatic indoctrination, yet the symbol of the church along with the landscape might provide another response to others, even a sense of comfort.

The series of little ceramic church plates on the other hand provide a feminine and petite visual representation and metaphor for the women within this community, the series is titled ‘Die Mooi Fasade‘ (The Beautiful Facade) and comments on the roles women assume within this community: the obedient daughters, the innocent brides, the subservient wives, the nurturing mothers, the exemplary homemakers and the charitable sisters.  Groomed to perfection….  a beautiful facade that is everything, but beautiful.

Onthaal Onthul is a reception welcoming the guests (visitors), it is a formal function, a celebration, a commemoration as well as a revelation.  The exhibition reveals the subtext within the aesthetic elements and social formalities by addressing the notion of etiquette (such as social conduct and serving guidelines).  Visitors are welcomed by a circle of petite wooden coffee tables, with ‘doilies’ neatly placed on each table.  The doily series ‘Drag/Gedrag’ (Dress/Manner)  illustrate women that are neatly groomed, beautifully dressed in lace dresses, satin gloves, court shoes and decorated with brooches and church hats, hands neatly folded with their feet together.

The work ‘Bedien/Bediening/Bediende’ (Serve/Service/Servant) encapsulates the notion of tea serving etiquette by neatly aligning dozens of teaspoons, framed within wooden trays, simulating the congregation sitting perfectly in the church pews.  It reminds us of the women serving tea after the service setting dozens of saucers, teacups and teaspoons, followed by washing, drying and packing the dozens of saucers, teacups and teaspoons away, only to do it all again the following Sunday.  Rituals and traditions repeated and perfected, year in and year out, decade in and decade out.

Naretha will soon make her book available for download (as a pdf).

Alternatively, you can purchase the printed book for R40 (excl postal fees).

Photographs were taken by Lanel Janse van Vuuren.

Below a review written by Alex Sudheim for the Mail & Guardian newspaper:

Artthrob: Onthaal Onthul

It is with great delight that my exhibition, Onthaal Onthul, features on Artthrob.

Have a look:–June-2011.aspx



Onthaal Onthul: Opening 27 June 2011

Onthaal Onthul, my solo exhibition that forms part of my masters, will open at artSPACE Durban.  Please join us on the night or else visit the gallery before it closes on 16 July 2011.

‘Onthaal’ refers to a social occasion where friends, acquaintances or a community gather, in many cases it is a celebration of something, or a festivity.  ‘Onthaal’ can also refer to a formal function or reception, an event guided by etiquette principles of how it should be conducted and  structured.  ‘Onthaal’ is to also welcome people.

‘Onthul’ is to reveal something, to point something out, to disclose or to expose something.  It can also mean to lay bare one’s heart.

Onthaal Onthul is a reception that the visitor has been invited to that will reveal the story behind the reception.  The reception a commemoration, celebration and a revelation.

Onthaal Onthul is based on my lived experience and perspective, and is influenced by family discussions especially between my mother and me.  The exhibition delivers commentary on the larger social picture, as well as my personal experiences and story.

You are hereby cordially invited to witness and experience my story.

As a taste of what to expect:

The Beautiful Facade Series.  Jesmonite casts on ceramic plates. 250×250

photographed by Lanel Janse van Vuuren

Jong Afrikaners (“Young Afrikaners”)

Roelof Petrus van Wyk recently produced a series of full colour photographs commenting on contemporary Afrikaners.  I find his work beautiful, direct and honest and it speaks volumes of how the notion of Afrikaner has shifted in the past two decades.  A section from his blog describing his work:

A Constructed Documentary Project on the Young Afrikaner.

This project Documents the Reclamation of the Afrikaner Identity by the Young Afrikaner Individual. A Massive shift from a State Owned, and Sanctioned, National Identity during Apartheid, to a Self-determined, Narrative, Plural and Personal Identity, steeped in Culture – Language, Music and Visual Arts – has occurred during the last decade. This group finds itself wedged between an inherited Caucasian/ European-, and a new African Nationalist worldview. Weaving these two worldviews into a coherent social-, political- and cultural reality is an ongoing existential challenge.”

Visit his blog:

His work was recently exhibited at Victoria & Albert Museum:

(image sourced from:, accessed 27 April 2011)

To listen to Roelof’s comments on making the work, have a look at this video clip:


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