DUNDEE : SONI’S BUILDING

The Soni building (corner of Wilson and McKenzie Street) was established in 1902 and has housed the Soni family and their jewellery store ever since. Mr Soni’s grandfather allegedly hosted Gandhi on the property while he was passing through Dundee in 1913.

For the final two weeks of our project, we relocated our workshop space from the Umzinyahti education centre into the centre of the town. Mr Soni agreed to rent us three of the vacant stores in his building.

To create interest around our new gallery/working space, we began by flooding each of the stores with 400w high-pressure sodium floodlight each night. These were the same high-pressure sodium floodlights used to light public space in the town. This occurred for the first week and drew a variety of enquiries from residents and neighbouring shop owners, eager to know if a new tenant was moving in.

For the second phase, we worked alongside the Siwela Sonke performers (drawing our inspiration from the assortment of collage characters created in prior workshops) creating a series of costumes that combined traditional Zulu with colonial attire. The performers spent an evening displaying their costumes in the Soni building windows (as mobile mannequins) causing passing traffic to stop and groups of kids to congregate outside.

The following day the Siwela performers (again dressed as their characters) set off on a Saturday procession through the streets of Dundee. The parade, which commenced at the taxi-rank and terminated outside the Royal Hotel, was witnessed by hundreds of locals and created further interest around our project space in Wilson Street.

We followed up on these performances by enlarging twelve 1,8 m prints of the collage characters and displaying them in the Soni shop windows for the rest of our stay. These prints enabled us to show off the talents of our workshop participants while turning the busy pavement into a public-gallery space.

 

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