By Jaime Uranovsky
Hannah Jantjies and Michaela Perkel, visual arts students at Herzlia, were two of 19 matric learners from 11 schools who exhibited their work in the Walking the Peripheries exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA.
The project, presented by Zeitz MOCAA Centre for Art Education, began in March when students participated in an intensive four-day workshop at the museum. There, they immersed themselves in contemporary artist Tracey Rose’s Shooting Down Babylon exhibition and learnt about offensive art, participated in practical activities and delved into the different elements of curatorship and constructing a group exhibition. Rose’s work was a key part of the process and inspired both learners in their pieces.
For the six weeks following the workshop, students were given a space in the Centre for Art Education to work on their pieces which were due in mid-May, and which were exhibited until the end of July.
Michaela Perkel’s piece is titled The Committee and is a reimagining of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, inspired by Tracey Rose’s Ciao Bella, (itself a ‘remake’ of The Last Supper). Michaela hopes that her mixed-media, three-dimensional construction will lead viewers to ask who would sit at their own ‘tables’. She experimented with hundreds of character combinations before casting herself in the roles of six pairs of contrasting and complementary characters, as well as that of the host. They include Einstein and Jimmy Hendrix, Mary Shelley and Tracey Rose, Greta Thunberg and Christopher Robin, Eve and Medusa, Hitler and Mandela, and Jesus and Buddha. As visually varied as the artwork is imaginative, Michaela has incorporated an assortment of materials from acrylic paint on unstretched canvas to wool, foam, cloth and thread. For example, she has crafted apples and Medusa’s snakes from plasticine, Greta’s raincoat from latex gloves and even placed real matza in front of Jesus.
Originally, Michaela wanted to stimulate viewers to imagine the conversations and debates that would emerge if these figures could really sit around a table together. During the process however, this shifted and became, for Michaela, about investigating the different forces within herself and indeed within all of us, and how we navigate them. The Committee is a depiction of how Michaela interacts with these different parts of self. She explains that art is about more than aesthetics, saying, “I want to make art that means something.” She says of her immersion in different artforms, “I am a product of all those hours reading poems and looking at work”.
Indeed, visual art is just one form of art for which Michaela has a talent. She recently placed second in the poetry category of an international competition hosted by Leaders Igniting Generational Healing and Transformation (LIGHT) for her poem titled Twenty twenty-two at eighteen. This success won her a prize, and the inclusion of her winning poem in LIGHT’s first literary journal to be published next year. While she has only penned poetry for a year, Michaela has written prose for far longer and even completed a novel during lockdown. She has also had short stories published in English Alive in both 2020 and 2021.
Hannah Jantjies’ contribution to Walking the Peripheries is titled Through the Looking Windows, andis a mixed-media piece that incorporates close-up black and white photographs with Hannah’s eyes as the focal point. By offering this deeper glimpse through ‘the windows to the soul’ Hannah hopes to show a side of her that one would not normally see. Inspired by Tracey Rose who interrogates issues that have personal meaning, Hannah crafted her piece around her struggles with identity. Hannah’s overall theme for her project is her journey through depression, with each frame touching on a different issue that she tackles.
This brave and honest piece addresses mental health and the racism that Hannah has faced as a Jewish woman of colour. One of Hannah’s favourite frames states “Black people can be Jewish too”. For Hannah, being questioned about her ethnicity and religion is a common occurrence. She notes that engaging with Tracey Rose’s work “inspired me to speak up about my own struggles and issues that you don’t really hear people of colour speaking about, especially if they are Jewish, so that was important for me to display”.
Another of Hannah’s preferred frames is about touching base with her emotions – the words ‘cry bby’ are emblazoned on her cheeks with more wording across her forehead detailing how Hannah has experienced emotion.
For Hannah, this piece is the beginning and she hopes to create more art around mental health. She stresses that her journey has helped her to understand the importance of normalising depression, and raising awareness by talking about it. Regarding her piece’s message, Hannah says, “Hopefully it makes viewers think about themselves and a different perception they have of the world… Not everything is good and that’s okay.”
Hannah, “like most artists,” she notes, is “inspired by everything”. She credits her art-loving family and their passion for history and heritage as well as their encouragement to verbalise difficult experiences to normalise them. She adores photography and videography and is considering pursuing these disciplines after school.
For Hannah, one of the most meaningful parts of this project were the bonds formed with other participants. She says, “You could just be yourself… we formed our own little family”.
Website: United Herzlia Schools
• Published in the August 2022 Digital Edition – Click here to read it.
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