Gender Studies Student Showcases Artwork
Gender Studies student, curator and artist, Ms Coral Bijoux’s work is featured at the Dreams, Wishes and Expectations RECYCLED exhibition at the historic 352-year-old Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town. The exhibit is part of the Voices of Women Museum exhibition series, which is funded by the MTN SA Foundation. Professor Rozena Maart, UKZN Gender Studies, was the keynote speaker at the opening of the exhibition.
‘The Castle, a building imbued with our history of colonisation, stands as testimony to our resistance as well as our subordination. The Castle forces us to contemplate its existence in a new era where the “Rhodes Must Fall” students have asked questions about statues,’ said Bijoux.
‘This building was built with the sweat and tears of our ancestors and it is more than high time that we reclaim it,’ added Maart.
According to Bijoux, the exhibition is a reminder of the context within which women testify to their “enslavement” (domestic, secondary status, a lack of voice within perceived agency) in one form or another.
‘Space is a curatorial device for me which allows me to present narratives of women (and my own), not with the intention of presenting a victim stance, but rather a testimony to challenge the viewer to experience the space and to consider their own acquiescence in maintaining situations that render “the feminine” mute,’ as though her voice does not matter or is belittled because of patriarchy, explained Bijoux.
She adds that the “feminine” is also positioned as one of strengths within the muted-ness and dares to continue to bring to one’s attention the strangleholds that render one’s dreams unrealised. ‘Daring to dream irrespective of, in spite or despite all else is the position of “the free”...and we all have the possibility for that position,’ Bijoux said.
Bijoux positions herself within the exhibition context; using recycled plastic as a device or metaphor that enables one to consider our inhumanity that produces circumstances that render some powerless and others powerful.
‘Plastic is a material that enables, but ultimately disables our natural environment on which we depend for our survival. This forms a parallel to the feminine within each of us and our ability to survive,’ said Bijoux. ‘Consider then the use of the word “feminine” which is not gender specific, though it embraces one gender more than the other and which has a strength that we rely on for our survival.’
Maart, who is Bijoux’s supervisor, discussed transparency in her address. She noted that, ‘transparency is not only the question of the plastic and how we use and abuse the environment and the Earth but that people need to be conscious of recycling and to look at the transparency within our own lives. We need transparency as a sign of truth and honesty. This is what each of the “Voices of Women,” artists are telling us. The exhibition is important because we have entered an era where we are now looking at psychological components of trauma, oppression and colonisation in a whole new way.’
The exhibition, which runs until 15 April, also features selected artworks from the Voices of Women Collection where women’s art, defiantly rendered in cloth and thread, is framed conceptually by their narrative which outlines the circumstances embedded in their memory (cloth).
Bijoux has written a letter to Jan van Riebeeck who ‘stands masterfully and erect in the space bearing testimony to his role as one of the early and most well-known colonisers. The letter was written so that we may continue to engage in dialogue as well as continue to question ourselves and each other, until we confront our realities,’ she said.
The exhibition includes walkabouts, discussions and presentations by the curator and young guides who have been trained on its content.
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photographs: Roger Jardin, Coral Bijoux, Creative Feel