This body of work was created in response to the exhibition theme “Diaspora”. Diaspora is defined as the dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland – and for this exhibition, specifically in relation to the Lowveld.
Born and raised in Nelspruit, the Lowveld was the landscape of my childhood. I moved away after high school, becoming an expatriate. These works are an exploration of my childhood memories. Memory is an overarching theme in most of my work and that holds especially true for the art I created for this show. The main reason I focus on memory in my work is because I personally struggle with it. There are large parts of my childhood that I have lost, whether consciously or subconsciously – I just do not remember a lot of it. This body of work is an exploration into “the land where I used to live”.
My experience of growing up in the Lowveld is unique but there is a shared visual vocabulary that resonates for other Lowvelders (and South Africans). Each of the objects evokes memory in the viewer. Each person has their own story to tell about these mundane objects. My work highlights the significance of the mundane, how the seemingly overlooked everyday objects can resonate with memory. Through my own individual exploration of my childhood and memories I often create artwork that is both intensely personal but also universally true.
I grew up surrounded by a family of collectors (or if you’re going to call it a spade by any other name: hoarders) and from an early age I had the importance and value of sentimental objects instilled in me. As an adult, I went in the opposite direction where I don’t have knickknacks or collectibles in my house unless they are extremely sentimental. I prefer to paint objects rather than collect them.
The objects in my paintings are a representation of different parts of my life in the lowveld. Family, childhood, nature, and school. Memories of sticky sweets on a hot lowveld summer afternoon after saving up my pocket money and spending it on a giant bag of 10c sweets at the spaza shop. The smell of jasmine outside my bedroom in August, the Lowveld coming back to life after winter. Marbles and my lucky pony in the dusty passageways of Lowveld High while I waited for my mother to finish teaching. Cigarettes and tequila on the steps of Blue Moon. The half colours I never bothered to sew onto my blazer. The Lowveld is a different beast for every person, we are all shaped by our experiences and memories, but our memories also shape the geography of our childhood world. Some people associate the lowveld with the bushveld but the Lowveld I grew up in was an inner landscape." - Elizabeth Tristram