Theatre FP Squaring the Circle: culture and politics in conversation

Squaring the Circle: culture and politics in conversation

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One of the Squaring The Circle exhibition sites is at 1820 Settlers National Monument. Photo: Hlumela Mkabile

Look carefully: 40 circular aluminium plaques have gone up on the walls of various buildings in Grahamstown as part of an exhibition that seeks to make the city a creative “City Museum”. Curated by the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, Squaring the Circle creates a conversation between the cultural and the political in direct response to four decades of Festival.

“I’m hoping that not only Festival visitors but also citizens of Grahamstown and tourists can find a context within which this city operates not only 11 days of Festival, but 365 days of the year,” says Christopher Till, director of the Apartheid Museum. Festival director Ismail Mahomed approached Till with an open brief for the exhibition in January.

The plaques provide the context that Till envisions: each focuses on a particular year, supplying one hard historical fact in conjunction with information about how the arts in South Africa responded to the socio-political situation during that time. Sites have been selected according to their geographical importance during the Festival period or their having a historical connection to aspects of political activism in South Africa.

The city markers mark the beginning of a multi-faceted initiative, which will culminate in the construction of a 20m tall sundial, surrounded by 40 symbols, in the circle at the very bottom of High Street.

“It’s about starting to ask questions in order to spark people’s conversations and curiosity,” says assistant curator and researcher Adriénne van den Heever. The plaques will be permanent and Van den Heever hopes they will provide a platform for people to share their own memories, voices and perspectives.

There is no guided walkabout of the sites just yet. Those interested in heading out on a self-guided hunt, one that promises to deepen their knowledge of South African arts in transformation, should look out for the exhibition map at The Monument and Village Green ticket offices.

– Kyla Hazell

Comments

Deborah Sutherland 09-07-2014, 19:18

This is a great idea and we have had informative fun looking out for the plaques. Some are definitely harder to spot than others: Drostdy Arch, SA Library for the Blind and DSG remain unfound, despite our best efforts, not to mention the sad tale of The Provost. Other locations, like the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, seem to be taking the project more seriously and have displayed the map and guide alongside the plaque. The information nuggets triggered memories of previous Fests and reminded us of some of the phenomenal events in South Africa’s recent history. Our thanks to the Apartheid Museum for an interactive and “immersive” installation.

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