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Expatriate Installation – Evoking the South African Memory

Part 1 Project 2012
Janri Haarhoff
University of the Free State Bloemfontein South Africa
‘What you want to know books can never tell, if the landscape could talk, if it could tell us now, then we would know something.’ – Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm. The endless plains of South Africa, its blue mountains and yellow savannas have its own systems, memories, and histories that it whispers to the South African. It is the lines written on its rocks, and dark hieroglyphs transcribed onto its hills and deserts by mighty clouds in endless blue skies, that tell the South Africans who they are and where they come from.

Almost 300 000 South Africans reside in the United Kingdom. Distant from the landscape that spiritually and physically defines them, the expat is a disorientated individual. This project aims to collect the essence of the African sky, its textures, ground and divinities as well as the continent’s ancestors and myths, in an architectural installation, as a piece of home for South Africans on foreign soil.

The structure, consisting of different textured panels, was designed for installation in front of the Tate Modern Gallery in London. The panels along a walkway, haptically evokes memories of the South African landscape and rises up from the ground to eliminate parts of the cityscape. The architectural installation creates an intimate moment where the expat can transcend the boundaries of time and space and embrace the natural elements of sky, earth and water. Through synaesthesia the South African is transported back home.

Memory as man’s claim to eternity is at once refreshed by the presence of the sculptural panels and questioned by the temporal nature of the installation. The structure is only to be installed for a couple of weeks and then demolished, however a memory of the installation is to be engraved onto the plain between the river Thames and the Tate Modern through the excavated paths that will remain.

Janri Haarhoff


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