School of Social Sciences

Dreams as R-evolution: a work of art takes form at Westville’s plant nursery

With more than 27 years’ experience in the arts and education fields, Gender Studies Honours student, Ms Coral Bijoux is currently working on a body of art as an installation at the Westville campus plant nursery.
UKZN Plastic Artist Ms Coral Bijoux’s artworks.
UKZN Plastic Artist Ms Coral Bijoux’s artworks.

Bijoux works independently as an artist and curator as well as an implementer and manager of creative projects.

Her latest work, Dreams as R-evolution is planned to develop over a nine-month period and will formally open in March 2020.

‘It deals with the feminine principles of earth (for example, nine months for gestation), nurturing, power and a determined effort to reshape and re-vision our world beyond colonial influence. One that affirms “the voiceless” and provides an opportunity for re-framing; re-invention; re-visioning with a view to positive transitions that are respectful of multiple knowledges, genders, cultural identities and worldviews; and ourselves within it. It is a piece that sits outside of the traditional art space where exclusivity is usually the preference,’ Bijoux said.

The work is accessible on multiple levels. According to Bijoux, the Dreams as R-evolution art installation will demonstrate (while it questions) ‘whether we are able to recreate our society.’ While it is mainly rendered in recycled plastic, it is not about plastic or recycling. ‘While recycling is a positive action, it does not necessarily change our practice or behaviours,’ she added.

The art installation is a practice-based and practice-led research project that includes auto-ethnographic reflections. It manifests in sculptural forms, drawings, paintings, narrative and animation. Bijoux said that, embedded in the re-visioning, is the question of humanity – ‘a humanity which allows decisions to be made that do not serve us; or a humanity that cares not for personhood/selfhood, lest we become independent thinkers.’

The work also reflects on matters of authority, consequence (of action or non-action) and a revision of our thinking towards new possibilities. Bijoux considers SELFhood as evident in her body of work, explaining, ‘To know who you are, begins the “vision creation” for your life. Hopefully, it creates a positive impact among your friends, family and community; and eventually becomes part of a broader discourse on transformation or “transitioning”/evolving.’

The studio space is deliberately not developed in a white cubed gallery that reiterates the conditioning she questions, but rather sets its tone amidst the natural elements in the nursery, with wind, rain, sun, plant life, animals and insects also participating in this experience.

The installation is already beginning to have an impact, with conversations taking place on multiple levels among ground and nursery staff, students, children, other artists, poets and writers in various parts of the country who are following this artistic journey that takes place ‘in a very odd space’.

The project is partly funded by the National Arts Council and will be accompanied by an art book funded by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Participating writers in the Dreams as R-evolution art book are among others, UKZN academic Professor Rozena Maart; poet, writer and performer Ms Malika Ndlovu; children’s author Ms Tracey-lee Easthorpe; scientist and writer Mr Andre Croucamp; contemporary artist Ms Usha Seejarim and UWC PhD candidate and writer Ms Pralini Naidoo.

Bijoux thanked UKZN’s Infrastructure, Planning and Projects Department for permission to use a section of the nursery, including Director Mr William Smith, Horticulturalist Ms Gugu Khanyeza, nursery manager Mr Vicky Singh and staff member Mr Chappie Ndizala.

Meet the artist-at-work on Friday mornings from 9am to 11am, or by prior arrangement. Talks and discussions are also held once a month at the site.

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