GFI Gallery’s first online exhibition a thought-provoking collaboration of work

Visual artist Pippa Hetherington collaborated with the Keiskamma Art Project in the exhibition Cutting 1820-2020
RECORDING HISTORY THROUGH ART: Visual artist Pippa Hetherington collaborated with the Keiskamma Art Project in the exhibition Cutting 1820-2020

The GFI Art Gallery has opened its first online exhibition.

A collaboration between visual artist Pippa Hetherington and the Keiskamma Art Project based in Hamburg, the exhibition is a thought-provoking outlook on the history of the Eastern Cape Xhosa community and the 1820 Settlers.

The exhibition, titled Cuttings 1820-2020, reflects on the history of the two parties, giving voice to the Xhosa community whose story has not been equally told in history.

Hetherington, a descendant of the 1820 Settlers, said the project was about understanding her personal identity, history and that of the Xhosa community which forms part of her history.

“Being a descendant of the 1820 Settlers, I realise how much history has been documented but it’s all in the context of the 1820 Settlers and very little about the Xhosa side of the story.

“I thought it was really important to not just focus on the 1820 Settlers story but to look at who we are as a collective of people from that time of the frontier wars,” Hetherington said.

With 2020 marking 200 years since the settlers arrived in the Eastern Cape, Hetherington said she was interested in hearing and telling the story of the historic events from the perspective of the Xhosa community, hence embarking on the project with artists from the Keiskamma Art Project.

“The objective of this exhibition is not to try to create a solution, it’s to crack open the possibility of dialogue ... a platform for people to come and discuss their history.

“What we’re trying to do here as artists is to try to tell a combined story [and avoid] the danger of a single story,” Hetherington said.

The exhibition is constructed around themes of family, cultural memory, displacement and loss, and explores the difficulty of disentangling the two groups’ shared histories.#

The artists have combined textiles, clothing and portraiture to represent the link between the two groups.

Hetherington is an internationally published photographer whose works comment on family, history, cultural identity and memory through photographs, video documentary and textiles.

She is the co-founder of Behind the Faces, a pan-African women’s storytelling project, launched at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, in 2013.

In Cuttings 1820-2020, Hetherington worked with embroiderers Nozeti Makhubalo, Nomonde Mtandana, Nomfundo Makhubalo, Nothandile Bopani, visual artist Cathy Stanley and wire artist Siya Maswana, who all form part of the Keiskamma Project artist collective.

Makhubalo said the project told history from the perspective of Xhosa women.

“We were taught the 1820 Settlers history separately from that of the Xhosa people, so with this project, we are bringing that history together as one story,” Makhubalo said.

She said the exhibition had been scheduled for April but was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The multi-award-winning Keiskamma Art Project was founded in 2011 and has work presented in various collections, including the parliament buildings in Cape Town and the permanent collections at the University of South Africa, the University of Witwatersrand and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum.

Visit to view the exhibition.

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