Something to hold on to

POWER stick: Ruhan Janse Van Vuuren’s stick Tonga, made of wood and polyurethane.

SOMETIMES MAGIC LURKS in an association between an established art gallery, the vagaries age and the possibilities that thinking out of the box can yield. For just a couple more days, the SA Association of Arts in Pretoria hosts a rather extraordinary little contemplation on what it means to be 75 years old, with an exhibition of walking sticks, featuring the work of 18 South African artists and curated by Collen Maswanganyi.

They’re not all functional in the traditional sense. And some might take you for a trip you may not forget (or heal from) rapidly. Lothar Böttcher’s Glas Kierie, for instance, is a poetic essay on the idea of the stick underpinned by the notion of fragility, blended with a nod in the direction of a stick as a weapon of self-defense. Then, there are Richard Chauke’s political figures, which will fit into the palm of your hand as you walk on by.

An amalgam of wood and glass, polyurethane and bronze feature in this show, not to mention some faux eggs and found objects. Cobus Haupt offers a cynical, philosophical face to the notion of ageing; Craig Muller takes the notion of the stick up a notch or seven, making it an object that resonates with the 13th century idea of the one-man band, or that of the Swiss army knife.

Others are a contemplation on the physical vulnerability of the proverbial nuts and bolts which hold us together for a lifetime. And some of those nuts and bolts are not the spine and the hips, but the ability to laugh. It is easily the works by the Sekele Craft collective, from Limpopo, with their bright colours and wild use of fishes and shoes that blow all the stuffiness out of the conventional walking stick. Not to forget Marinda du Toit who pushes the limits of possibility into a pop rubric, and the quirky little faces on the knobs of Patrick Manyika’s sticks.

But ultimately, the wisdom and wit of this exhibition is couched in traditional values which are good on the eye and easy on the heart. Also including the work of Venda-based artist Gazland Hlungwani, the only son of legendary South African sculptor, Jackson Hlungwani;  Johannes Maswanganyi, the father of Collen and celebrated conceptual sculptor and games-player Gordon Froud, the show offers a crisp resonance between formal display and user-friendliness that makes it, and adds a frisson of joy to your step.

  • Walking stick – Tonga – Kierie , an exhibition of sticks curated by Collen Manswangyi in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the SA Association of the Arts is on display in the association’s North Gallery, until May 28. 173 Mackie Street, Bailey’s Muckleneuk, Pretoria. It features the work of Lothar Böttcher, Richard Chauke, Guy du Toit, Marinda du Toit, Gordon Froud, Danelle Janse van Rensburg, Ruhan Janse van Vuuren, Patrick Manyika, Collen Maswanganyi, Johannes Maswanganyi, Craig Muller, Thabo Pitso, Nicholas Prinsloo, Sekele Art, Sanna Swart, Michael Teffo and Izanne Wiid.

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