Onthaal Onthul – Opened at artSPACE durban

by Naretha Pretorius

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: