Fine Arts Students Construct “Unsettling Space” Installation
Fine Arts students from the School of Arts recently constructed an installation titled ‘Unsettling Space’ on the Pietermaritzburg campus. This was part of the Andrew Mellon Foundation Supra-institutional Project on the Decolonial Turn (Unsettling paradigms).
The project is designed to strengthen knowledge about how students experience UKZN as an institution and to empower students to express this.
Also linked to this project, was a performance piece titled NgqondoNgqondo: A Walk in their Passage, directed by performance lecturer Ms Pumelela Nqelenga. The site-specific piece grapples with the complexities of how we come to know and access knowledge though spirituality and performance in the academy.
Drama and Performance Studies shares a floor with Theology in the New Arts Building, which leads to interesting interactions and reflections. Said Nqelenga: ‘These ways of interacting within the academy are crucial in how UKZN students access knowledge. The concept aligns both disciplines and situates the role of the academic as performer, carer, spiritual guide and more. The relevance of this work speaks to the post Fees Must Fall era where decolonising the academy can happen when we unsettle spaces that have fixed meanings.’
She believes that interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary work can assist in dismantling colonial discourses that further infringe upon how we come to access knowledge.
Of the outdoor installation, Fine Arts PhD student Ms Caroline Birch said: ‘The overarching theme of ‘Unsettling’ paradigms is our interpretation of how students find their voice within this Institution. This was a chance for us to express the challenges, fears, hopes and feelings experienced in this shifting environment,’ she said. ‘The informality of the platform encouraged the audience to engage with the theme freely. This kind of active engagement offered a different way of generating knowledge or understanding, further enhancing and interweaving with our approach to underlying theories.’
Birch believes the exhibition has the potential to bring together students from different areas of campus who might not otherwise cross paths. ‘The collaborative nature of such Installations might trigger other trans-disciplinary collaborations. And I hope it offers a bit of fun too!’ she added.
Fine Arts lecturer Dr Kathy Arbuckle was pleased with the turnout and the way in which students from different disciplines engaged with each other and the artworks they created on site. ‘I hope we can do something similar every year as a campus community event, with a different concept each time,’ she said.
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photographs: Melissa Mungroo, Mzwandile Makhanya and Pumelela Nqelenga