For the past three months Neil Coppen and Vaughn Sadie have been living in the historic battlefield town of Dundee in Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal as part of VANSA’S (The Visual Arts Network of South Africa) ‘2010 Reasons to Live in A Small Town’ Residency. Their project titled ‘Living Within History’ saw them working in conjunction with locals, historians, community groups, re-enactors, tour guides and learners.
With a culture of historic re-enactment (the tradition of replaying or repeating the past through performance) already existing in the town, the artists via a series of workshops worked towards staging a series of unconventional re-enactments in public spaces around Dundee. Says Sadie ‘We never intended to focus on Dundee’s more fabled figures and terrains, but rather reveal how history is founded on smaller, less grandiose personal narratives’. ‘Of interest to us’ adds Coppen ‘are those places within the town that have existed on the fringes of popular historic imagination. We have looked at the everyday history of citizens from various communities, recording small yet significant personal histories and imagining how the present (or everyday ) might come to be memorialised in the future’.
A series of workshops required participants to re-locate and re-imagine themselves into events from the past, and a range of mediums such as collage, film, stop- motion- animation, song, dance and music were employed. Guest facilitators included Publicist Sharlene Versveld and Musical facilitators Karen Van Pletsen, Clive Gumede and Siyanda Mwandla. During the month of January, Coppen and Sadie staged a series of re-enactments (in collaboration with traditional music groups and Siwela Sonke performers Sibusiso Gantsa, Mxolisa Nkomode, Ntombikayise Gasa and Neliswa Rushualang) in a variety of spaces around the town.
For their final intervention, the artists are renting an empty store on 49 Wilson Street using it as a temporary gallery/project space. The Gallery will be open from Thursday 27th through to Sunday 30th, with a function on Saturday the 29th from 5:00 pm onwards. The space will be used to display documentation of their various collaborations and interventions.