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DBL: Exhibition Histories

Etching from 'Sound from the Thinking Strings'



Etching from 'Sound from the Thinking Strings'


Pippa Skotnes

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"Skotnes’s own visual interpretation of the history and cosmology of the |xam formed the last component of this interdisciplinary endeavour and constituted a visual component that drew together the various strands of disciplinary interpretations and presented a perspective on the |xam life she felt ‘was missing from the other interpretations’ (Skotnes 1991: 30). In these images she drew freely on San mythology, accounts of |xam life recorded by Lucy Lloyd, historical and archaeological research and images from rock paintings in a landscape setting.

She writes in her preface that these etchings were direct attempts at ‘inverting the museum dioramas’ in the ethnographic halls close to the exhibition and which, through their display of the San’s body casts, rendered them closer to specimens of biology than as members of a highly developed culture (Skotnes 1991: 52). By creating images that combined shamanistic rituals, entoptic spirals, plants, hunting bags, bows and arrows, snakes, eland-shaped rainclouds, colonists, musical instruments, shelters and therianthropic shapes, Skotnes eclipsed the static narratives of the dioramas and the object labels in the exhibition, placing them in a context in which their metaphysical qualities were celebrated more than their physical qualities. These prints stood in striking contrast to the other exhibits, which framed the San as physical types, and they challenged viewers to confront the reality that the San had a rich history and cultural and social life"" (Liebenberg 2021: 157)."


Skotnes, P. et al. 1991. Sound from the thinking strings: A visual, literary, archaeological and historical interpretation of the final years of xam life. Cape Town: Axeage Private Press.
Liebenberg, N. 2021. The virus and the vaccine: curatorship and the disciplinary outsider. University of Cape Town. Doctoral dissertation.


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||kabbo's song on the loss of his tobacco pouch Bibliographic Resource