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Joani Groenewald. Stellenbosch University. New Graduates 2015

Article  /  ArtistsGraduate 2015
Published: 23.06.2015
Joani Groenewald. Stellenbosch University. New Graduates 2015.
Mail:
joaniE-mailsun.ac.za
Author:
Universiteit Stellenbosch University
Edited by:
Klimt02
Edited at:
Gothenburg
Edited on:
2015
.

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.

Intro
In this research project Joani Groenewald studies memory, specifically the unstable and fragmented nature of memory. She revisits a specific childhood memory and recreates it visually through the creation of jewellery pieces and objects. The memory is from 1990, she is four years old. The memory becomes a story for the viewer and the jewellery objects become a visual interpretation that contains traces of moments in the memory.
 
Universiteit Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Joani Groenewald - The fragmented nature of memory
“Woken up by the loud organ music, I lift my head from my mother’s lap. The church service has come to an end and it is time to go home. My brother pokes me, tells me to get up and starts pushing me towards the aisle. I complain. My mother tells us to keep quiet. We make our way to the exit of the church with shuffling movements. My mother gives both my brother and me a coin each to put into the collection plate held by the deacon at the door. The deacon nods his head and smiles at us as we drop the coins into the plate.

My feet and legs are cold in the white knitted stockings and baby-doll shoes that my mother made me wear. My dress is beautiful – my mother made it herself – but the embroidery in the front makes it stiff and rather uncomfortable. All I can think about is getting back into my corduroy pants and warm jersey. Unfortunately I know that is not going to happen. We are on our way to my grandparent’s farm where we will have tea followed by Sunday lunch. I will be taking these clothes off only when we get back home, just in time for my bath.

After church we drive directly to my grandparents’ farm. The dirt road is windy and bumpy and it takes us about thirty minutes to get there. We arrive there moments after my grandparents, who left the church service just before us. My grandparents are warm and kind people. The farm house is a beautiful white Cape Dutch-style home. As we walk up the stairs to the front porch, the front door opens and a lively little Pomeranian comes up to greet us. My grandmother loves this little dog like her own child. Opening the door is a lady called Evelina. Evelina politely greets us and walks back to the kitchen, where she is busy preparing the food for lunch.

We walk to the lounge, where tea is served. We all sit down for tea. My grandmother has the most beautiful tea set. The cups are white with a gold line running around the rim. Matching golden spoons lie in the saucers. Inside the tray the most beautiful crochet cloth lines the base. The sugar bowl is covered by a matching doily with little blue beads sewn onto the edges. My grandmother crochets very well and she made the doily and cloth herself. Of all the objects on the tray I love the sugar bowl the most. It has the most beautiful curves, like a flower, and inside it has blue and white and pink sugar crystals. Nestled in the sugar is a golden spoon with the most intricate detail pierced out of it. All these beautiful objects keep me fascinated for a short while.

My brother, on the other hand, completely uninterested in the grown-up conversation, is teasing the dog. My grandmother distracts him by offering him a biscuit, which keeps him out of mischief for a while. My brother and I both know that we have to be on our best behaviour when we visit our grandparents on a Sunday. We have both already gotten to know the wooden spoon all too well and if we do not behave threats of fetching it are likely to follow. My grandmother, however, has a ritual that my brother and I are very fond of; every once in a while, when we visit, she gives us a spoon full of cool-drink syrup, which she stores in an old medicine bottle. When she gives it to us she always says “hierdie medisyne is om julle soet te maak”. (1)

After tea we walk through to the dining room where lunch is ready and the table is set with the finest silver ware. For lunch we have roast chicken, roast potatoes, roast lamb, rice and pumpkin pie. What a feast! We all dish up and sit down for lunch. After lunch my grandmother rings the brass bell that is on the table in front of her and Evelina appears from the kitchen to clear the table. A memory from 1990, I was four years old.”

In the research that I conducted for my Master’s degree I interrogate my own memory in order to illustrate its fragmented and unstable nature. I revisit a specific childhood memory and attempt to recreate it visually through the creation of jewellery pieces. However, the unattainability of a consistent memory becomes increasingly evident in the process of its externalization. My work thus speaks of the unravelling of memory, as well as the piecing together and imagining of a new memory. My thesis and my practical work are an exploration of this ambivalent nature of memory. Even though memory is concerned with the past, it is also about the present as our memories can also be manipulated by present prejudices. In this regard Hodgkin and Radstone summarises the relevance of memory particularly well in the following extract:
In contemporary political and intellectual databases, memory is a constant reference point. From databases about traumatic memory or nationalist accounts of the past, memory is invoked to justify, explain or challenge familiar histories. Bridging the gap between public and private, between scholarly and popular uses of history, it has become a key term in our culture’s engagement with the past (Hodgkin & Radstone 2003: n.p).

Personally, I investigate the complex relationship between the present and the past as depicted in the contemporary jewellery (2)  objects that I create.  I examine how contemporary jewellery can be regarded as a medium through which one can explore a concept such as memory. I also investigate the relationship between memory and identity. I specifically focus on the role that memory has played in shaping my own personal identity. I believe that identities are partly constructed through memory and therefore I employ this study to comment on my own disposition as post-apartheid ‘Afrikaner’(3) woman. In this sense I explore how jewellery objects function mnemonically in order to seemingly construct a personal account of my identity. I refer to a specific memory from my childhood which I reflect back upon and interrogate throughout my research as an example to illustrate the hermeneutics of memory.

My argument is that memory is fragmented and therefore the externalization of memory is fragmented. This argument centres on the discussion of memory and identity in relation to contemporary jewellery as a possible vehicle through which such concepts can be externalized.

I believe that objects are loaded with social and cultural meaning and therefore objects can become visual documentations of histories. Personally, the objects that I create become metaphors for the tension I experience when looking back at my own history. Through my art practice I attempt to highlight these tensions in an attempt to make sense of the past. My work is a self-reflexive study of my own history. I investigate the strenuous relationship between the present and the past within the context of a post-apartheid South Africa. I draw from personal experience and memory in reconstructing my own interpretation of the past through the jewellery objects I make. In this sense my work functions as an expression of my personal memories. Because of the subjective nature of my study, it is important to note my personal and cultural background in order to place my research into context. These factors inescapably shape my own personal views, memories and perceptions, and therefore it is consciously and subconsciously translated into the practical work I produce.


In this research project Joani Groenewald studies memory, specifically the unstable and fragmented nature of memory. She revisits a specific childhood memory and recreates it visually through the creation of jewellery pieces and objects. The memory is from 1990, she is four years old. The memory becomes a story for the viewer and the jewellery objects become a visual interpretation that contains traces of moments in the memory. The memory seems to be that of an ordinary day in the life of a child, but there is something uncomfortable within the memory. In the detail the complex cultural, socio, economic and political circumstances is visible and brought to the foreground. The question of time, place, reality and truth are ideas that the viewer is confronted with. The “story” is written as the memory of an adult woman living in a post apartheid world, remembering a moment as a four-year old girl, during apartheid. The beauty of the objects enhances the tension between the pure, impure, clean and stained. The stained and worn material research signifies the unraveling of memories. Her jewellery objects are sensitive and seductive. It deceives the viewer, just as memories do. / Nanette Veldsman, Supervisor & Lecturer, Universiteit Stellenbosch University, June 2015

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References

(1) This is a humorous comment and has two possible English translations; “This medicine will make you sweet” and “This medicine is to make you behave”.
 (2)  The term ‘contemporary jewellery’ refers to jewellery that is the product of an avant-garde movement in jewellery design and practice (Astfalck 2005: 19). Contemporary jewellery questions the formal, aesthetic and functional standards of jewellery in general (Dormer and Turner 1985: 14).
 (3) This study is conducted from a postmodernist perspective and therefore I do not believe in the notion of one pure and stable national identity. In this regard the term ‘Afrikaner’ is in my opinion problematic as I believe, in congruence with the views of Benedict Anderson, that nationalism and national communities are imagined constructs. See Anderson, B. 1983. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.

 
Joani Groenewald. Object: Untitled. Lace, tea strainers, thread, rooibos tea. Joani Groenewald
Object: Untitled
Lace, tea strainers, thread, rooibos tea
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Joani Groenewald. Object: Untitled, 2015. Linen , rooibos tea. Joani Groenewald
Object: Untitled, 2015
Linen , rooibos tea
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Joani Groenewald. Brooch: Teesakkie #1. Antique napkin, silver, rooibos tea. Joani Groenewald
Brooch: Teesakkie #1
Antique napkin, silver, rooibos tea
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Joani Groenewald. Brooch: Untitled. Silver, 9ct rose gold, paper, plastic. Joani Groenewald
Brooch: Untitled
Silver, 9ct rose gold, paper, plastic
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Joani Groenewald. Brooch: Teesiffie #2. Lace, thread, silver, tea strainer, rooibos tea. Joani Groenewald
Brooch: Teesiffie #2
Lace, thread, silver, tea strainer, rooibos tea
© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.
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