DUNDEE : SONI PROJECT SPACE

For the final two weeks of our project we moved our gallery/workshop space into three stores in the Soni’ building in downtown Dundee (See the previous blog post on Soni Building). Through a variety of performances and activities we generated interest around the new site.

After sweeping and cleaning of the largest of the Soni stores, we set up tables and the collage workshop pieces from the former workshop, allowing passer-bys to pop in and construct characters and scenarios of their own. We selected around thirty- archive images of the town from the Talana museum and displayed them across one of the walls.

Besides these images, we hung an enlarged aerial photograph of the town—taken in 1943— and a composite image of several Dundee maps illustrating how the town had changed and developed over time.

We lay linoleum mats on the floor and began to employ the venue as a multipurpose gallery/ editing and rehearsal venue (open daily from 9 to 5). A variety of period costume pieces including props and hats were displayed in the windows and kids were encouraged to enter and play dress-up.

The Umzinyathi municipality, excited about the potential of the project, had asked to meet with us and agreed to lend us a PA and playback system to use in the space.

Using a block-out curtain we divided the room in half and installed a two film- screens and projectors, which showed footage of the town and its people. The cinema was an extremely popular addition to the space and enabled us to share and discuss documentation of our various site-specific performances.

Our presence in the area drew hordes of visitors, most of whom noticed the gallery from the street and entered to enquire if a new museum was opening. Kids on their way home from school began to visit daily, either sitting with us as we worked or creating new collage characters to add to our window display. Parents passing on their way home from work returned on the weekend to share the experience with family members and recite memories around the town.

 

Our facilitator Bongikosi Ngobese acted as translator and tour- guide, talking visitors through the aims and outcomes of the project while encouraging them to visit the cinema and share any memories or stories they had of the region.

The large Aerial photograph (from 1945) depicting the town in its infancy was employed as a means to get elder townsfolk to guide us through their recollections. For days we watched as fingers played tour guide– lovingly tracing dirt roads and tracks no longer in existence.

The various archive imagery on display was especially popular with kids—intrigued to see how much their town had changed since the olden days– while members of the Muslim community visited daily to identify (and photo- copy) an unseen picture of their mosque taken in the 30’s.

Once people heard about the space they began to arrive bearing personal photographs and objects to add to our gallery- this included a limited edition Consul glass bottle that is said to have corked the spirit of the famous factory before it closed down in the 80’s.

Over the final weekend we threw a gallery party and invited members of the public and participants from our workshops. It was an extremely memorable and rewarding closing to the project, drawing a large crowd and culminating in dancing and an impromptu dress-up photo shoot.

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