Art as a catalyst for change

A work by Helen Sebidi.

Works from the Spier Collection celebrate 25 years of democracy with I See U: Imagining a Space for Freedom, an exhibition featuring more than 35 works from the Spier Collection, will be showcased at Spier Wine Farm, from tomorrow, Thursday August 29 to the end of November.

The works – by artists such as Athi-Patra Ruga, Helen Sebidi and Ricky Ayanda Dyaloyi – encompass painting, sculpture, photography, beadwork and drawing.

Together they powerfully illustrate the importance of art to catalyse change, hold the powerful to account, and give a voice to the voiceless.

“Spier has been a longstanding supporter of the arts because we believe they are a powerful tool for transformation – sparking new insights and inspiring us to engage with our world in new and imaginative ways,” says Spier CEO, Andrew Milne.

When selecting the works, I See U’s curator Olga Speakes, a lecturer at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town and an independent curator, was guided by the insight that, while much has been achieved over 25 years of democracy, much more needs to be done.

The artists which she and co-curator Gaisang Sathekge selected each honour the struggles of the past and take stock of our tumultuous present, while inviting the viewers to imagine a more equal, prosperous and just South African future. “By imagining the possibilities of freedom, artists open the door to real change,” says Speakes.

“Artists hold a mirror to our society and our history and to speak back to us through their creations. They are the ones who are able to see our world in a way that opens different, deeper ways of knowing it. And so, by supporting artists we support our freedom.”

The phrase “I see U” has become a short form often used on social media to give recognition and support – to connect and to acknowledge someone’s achievements in spite of the challenges they face. It originated in the blockbuster film, Avatar, and has become popular especially among young people, who often use “U” instead of “You”. By using this youthful colloquialism points, the exhibition offers a reminder of the young age of our democracy.

“Spier’s commitment to the arts extends to beyond nurturing artists – we are keen to develop curatorial talent too. That’s why, for public exhibitions we invite young South African curators to access this significant collection – thus building on their own career development and portfolio as curators,” Mirna Wessels, CEO of the Spier Arts Trust explains.

The exhibition is at the Old Wine Cellar at Spier. For more information, visit www.spier.co.za