7 June 2022

Collaboration turns hurt into healing

by Gerrit Bester

Collaboration in the arts does not only harness the experiences and skills of individual participants to give meaning and creative expression to what they deem important. Often, it also leads to ground-breaking new work, as is the outcome of such a partnership between artist Marinda du Toit and the Department of Performing Arts.

Artist Marinda du Toit (middle, second from right) collaborated with the Department of Performing Arts on a live art performance, titled [left] in the cracks, with some of the cast and crew members. Also in the picture is Prof Janine Lewis (middle, left), Associate Professor at the Faculty of Arts and Design.

Marinda, who is a self-taught artist, sculptor, performance artist and clown, has been working with Performing Arts students for two weeks in May to conceptualise an inter-disciplinary live art performance planned on the Arts campus later this year. 

Live art refers to performances or events undertaken or staged by an artist or a group of artists as a work of art, usually innovative and exploratory in nature.

Marinda is best known for building characters from found objects, like wood, plastic, metal, wire, paper, and textile which, she says, “resemble the people I watch, their posture, walk and energy.” Her work has been recognised and exhibited nationally, most recently at the Walking stick - Thonga – Kierie exhibition held as part of the Association of Arts’ 75th birthday celebrations.

Marinda and Prof Janine Lewis, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Arts and Design and seasoned performance artist and theatre maker, have known each other for several years and reconnected during Covid-19. 

Based on their shared interests in the arts, Prof Lewis invited Marinda to the Arts campus where the production, titled [left] in the cracks, merging two creative ideas, recently started taking shape. It literally treads new ground.

In a nutshell, the production is about what a stick becomes in the hand of a human and how to change the loaded history thereof. “I’m fascinated by the stick, which is embedded in our behaviour as a weapon, but, more importantly, also how it could unite people as a meaningful object in our daily lives,” says Marinda.

Prof Lewis says the collaborative project intertwines Marinda’s philosophy about sticks and her (Prof Lewis’) fascination with what lies between the cracks of history. “It entails a travelling performance parade on Campus mimicking the road from Church Square along Bloed Street to the Union Buildings. “By using sticks, it metaphorically narrates what was left between the cracks in the pavement along the journey over the years, whether personal, public, or political,” she adds. 

She explains that as a start to the project, students were asked about their stick stories. This resulted in beautiful narratives, and self-composed poems, which interestingly included recollections of the different applications of sticks, ranging from beatings to representations of humility, e.g. how it is used to rescue people. Together with students, Prof Lewis and Marinda cleverly montaged these stories of hurt and healing together to build a thought-provoking live art performance. 

The montage, among others, includes a scene about protests made up of a medley of historical songs, the most recent being that sung during the Fees Must Fall campaign, as an ode to protests. In addition, it includes a section dealing with Gender-Based Violence. 

The theme is deeply rooted in hauntology, a range of ideas referring to the return or persistence of elements from the social or cultural past, as in the manner of a ghost. But it strongly focuses on how these past occurrences/injustices can be revisited as part of a healing process. 

As the production evolved, the creative duo is also involving students from the Motion Picture Production programme for collaboration on audio-visual and visual metaphorical storytelling, and sculpture students to produce sculptures as supportive installation and visual text.

Marinda says she was inspired to work with TUT students, that the project ignited her hunger for knowledge after a period during which many artists experienced isolation, and that it put her work into an academic context. 

The production will be performed in September and it is envisaged to also travel the country.

Currently it involves 26 Performing Arts students and forms part of their simulated Work-Integrated Learning (WIL).

To view Marinda’s work, click on: https://www.instagram.com/marindadu

Images captured during rehearsals of the live art performance by Liezl Badenhorst.

For more information on the Tshwane University of Technology, please contact Phaphama Tshisikhawe, Corporate Affairs and Marketing.
Tel: +27 12 382 4711   Email: tshisikhawerpt@tut.ac.za