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Homage to the Departed – working with the McGregor Museum – Archives, Library and Artists Studio

The project was based at the McGregor Museum, where artists were granted access to the 19th-century drawing room transformed into a studio for the duration of our programme. Guided and mentored by the research team, the artists pursued weekly creative assignments, exploring specific themes related to the treatment of human remains and artefacts in museums. These behind-the-scenes glimpses gave artists a unique perspective, and enriched their understanding and provided new inspiration. The artists also embarked on tours of the hidden treasures of the Museum, such as the Museum Archives and Library, typically inaccessible to the public. Through this interdisciplinary approach, artists not only honed their artistic skills but also engaged in meaningful reflection and discourse, ultimately contributing to a more profound exploration of the subject of depicting human remains in the museums.

Project team in a discussion next to an easel.

Project team discussing artwork.

Project team at museum archive.

Project team at library.

Project team at museum.

Shadows of the Memory - Monochrome Past at the Duggan-Cronin Gallery

As part of their assignment, artists visited the Duggan-Cronin Gallery, a museum displaying the photographs of Alfred Duggan-Cronin, an Irishman who worked on the mines in Kimberley from 1897. His passion for photography and encounters with African migrant workers on the mines led to his embarking on expeditions into rural Southern Africa between the years 1919 and 1939 to document indigenous peoples whose lifeways were undergoing change but still retained much that was traditional. His photographs and ethnographic collections offer glimpses of traditional life and dress now largely vanished. The artists also explored the "Beyond the Body: A Portrait of Autopsy" exhibition, an earlier collaborative project by Anna and Halina displayed at the Gallery as part of their permanent exhibition. Dr Umana Niwenshuti was instrumental in the early phase of the project.

A group photo of some members of the project team.

Project team at Gallery.

Project team at gallery

Project team at gallery

Project team at gallery.

Tracing the Past - Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre

In their final assignment, the artists ventured to an extraordinary location: Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre situated on the outskirts of Kimberley developed as a rock art tourism centre in 2000. It is an example of the many hundreds of rock engraving sites dotted across the west central part of the South African interior (which tend to be less well known than the famous rock painting sites in caves in the country’s mountain escarpments). Up to a few thousand years old, the engravings were made by hunter-gatherers ancestral to the San people, some also possibly associated with the Khoekhoe pastoralists of the precolonial period. The art is understood to have been part of performances of ritual in an animist or perspectivist belief context, some of it relating to healing dances and altered states of consciousness. The artists could relate to some of the beliefs and myths recorded in the late nineteenth century, elements of which are still present in rural folk memory today. Discussions included the possibility of ‘extended socialities’ in terms of which perceptions of the world draw human and non-human ‘beings’, both animate and inanimate, into relational connectedness.

Project team at rock art centre

Project team at rock art centre

Project team at rock art centre.

Project team at rock art centre.

Project team at rock art centre.

Press Day

Project team talking to media

Project team talking to media.

Project team talking to media.

Project team talking to media