Irma Stern

Photo Jul 23, 7 02 19 PM

17th Century Indo-Portuguese Chair Ebony with ivory inlay

The conservation team at the Social History Centre has been going mad putting together the object list for the Irma Stern exhibition. Her works will be displayed alongside objects that are represented in the paintings themselves in order to give an extra dimension to her pieces. I’ve been working with Janene on the condition reports and treatments for these objects and on Monday we were finally able to install them. This morning we cleaned and treated the Indo-Portuguese chair to be ready for the opening this evening.

Madora, scarf, and hat.

Madora, scarf, and hat.

Special stands were made for the madora and hat in order to elevate them and also protect them. The madora was in such a bad state it was almost not included in the exhibition but extra measures were taken to be able to include it.

Dress - 1964

Dress – 1964

Billy and I made the bust for this dress. We should have made her breasts larger; the dress has no shape. This dress and mantilla was displayed across from a portrait in which the subject was dressed similarly.

Cloth from Kuba Kingdom Republic of the Congo

Cloth from Kuba Kingdom
Republic of the Congo

This cloth was a last minute addition to the exhibition. I worked on the condition report and photography of this object on Tuesday. It was a crazy experience getting these objects ready on top of the other exhibition we were also working on. Red in the Rainbow Nation required archival material to be laminated, especially since it will be up for a full year. The photographs and letters have to be protected from such long-term exposure. I am extremely proud to have contributed to both exhibitions.

Into the Wild

I decided to go hiking without really planning too much where I was going. I headed in the direction of Signal Hill and Lions Head and eventually ended up climbing Lions Head. It turned out to be a 5 hour hike by feet. To give you a sense of my route here is a map (I started at Greenpoint on the top):

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It was nice to get away from the craziness of the city, take some time to breathe, and enjoy the other side of what Capetown has to offer. Since we didn’t hike Table Mountain, I thought this would be a nice alternative. Other hikers on the trail were geared up with their hiking shoes, windbreaker jackets, and small backpacks. I wore jeans, running shoes, and a light jacket, which I ended up tying around my waist because it got so warm. I was sweating a lot just mid-way through the hike. By the time I reached the bottom of Lion’s Head it was already over an hour of hiking. I kept going, forgetting that it had slightly rained earlier. The rocks dripping water and there were little puddles of mud. How authentic! South African mud!

I was getting so close to the top, then I approached all these ladders, chains and staples. I was not expecting it to be this extreme, but I climbed them somehow and made it to the top. I met a group of locals, who were graduates from UCT. I ended up hiking down with them. It was good that I did because it was so slippery on the way down. We were basically sliding down the mountain. The view was just incredible from everywhere on the mountain.

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By the time I made it down, I was in the back of Camps Bay. I said goodbye to the new friends and I decided to walk back to Greenpoint from there to catch the sunset along the shoreline. Part of the route, I jogged and then by the time I was right out of Camps Bay I walked. I love the feeling of the ocean wind blowing on my face. I probably looked horrible by then, but I felt great. I turned around and saw the mountain. It is crazy how I was up there just a couple hours back. I guess the sky and clouds aren’t as far away as I thought.

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Mandela Day

We were invited to take part in Mandela Day by volunteering at the SPCA in Grassy Park. We went with the Iziko Mobile Museum to set up a sort of educational area for those who had signed up to do their 67 minutes on this interesting national holiday. I had never heard of a holiday that is centered around charity work. We have been taking so many ubers around town and most of the drivers will leave the radio playing, so we’ve learned the slogan of the month is “Be more Madiba!” Unfortunately, everything was booked at the SPCA so we had to organize pet food and curate a photoshoot instead for the volunteers. Meanwhile, the mobile museum wasn’t getting much action, but I’m glad we were able to do something meaningful on this important day.

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Framed Art, Rugby, and a Little Dose of Nature

Everyday I am surprised by how fast time goes. The hours we spend at the Social History Centre each day feel so short and I am surprised by the amount of progress we make each day on the collections. I started off continuing to unpack items from boxes into the storage. I took a trip up the eighth floor to work on local and German tools. What shocked me what the beauty and history of these rusty chunks of metal. Large bellows stacked up across the floor next to shelves of small wrenches, blades, and knives. These were the supporting tools to help build what South Africa is today. The rest of the week, I was able to work with Bradley closely with the art collection of the Social History Centre. On the fifth floor is nearly 700 framed artworks hanging in racks. Our task was go to through all of these paintings, prints, drawings, watercolors and collages, and take a condition of the works. Though this might seem quick and easy, identifying and finding each artwork in the digital catalogue can get tricky because the database is still so new and improving. Through doing hundreds of these already this week, I am picking up some of the basic conditioning terms such as fading and yellowing of images, acid migrations, foxing and other conditioning terms. The language of conservation is still so new and working with the art collection is helping me get a better grasp of it. No matter how much I study these terms, being able to see the damages on actual works makes all the difference in understanding it.

This weekend was filled with sun, good food and nature! Friday, I took a trip to Woodstock to see a friend’s show. Woodstock reminded me a lot of Arts on Main in Joburg. Walking through the street there was a sense of that “roughness” too. There was something nice about that and getting lost while traveling. I was approached by homeless and waved to by passerby-ers. It felt like a community of people who were trying to revitalize a neighborhood, forcing a gap between the “outsiders” and “insiders.” The gallery was even probably the most welcoming one I’ve ever been to. When I walked in, the gallerists brought me a press release (and price list) and when I left, they gave me a free copy of Art Review and some posters…Who would’ve guessed!

I didn’t have much time to explore more in Woodstock, but I did make one last stop at a natural history store. The one-roomed shop had skulls, bones, to bird eggs. I ended up buying a deer horn and a springbok horn. The lady at the shop asked if I was traveling internationally. I let her know I was going back into the U.S. and she issued me a form from Cape Nature, saying that the horns were legally collected. This way customs would not give me any issues. This small detail reminded me of our park ranger, Patrick, at Pilanesburg, who described the huge issue with poaching rhinos for their horns. I brought the horns back and put them against my window sill, thinking about this fact.

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Saturday, we went to the Springbok’s game at Newland Stadium. We wore our scarves that Marit and Nate bought us. With little to no clue about how the sport worked, we went and just took in the experience. Surprisely, it was pretty easy to catch on to the game’s rules. It’s so much simpler than football and so much more exciting because everyone is just tackling and wrestling each other. At some point, the teams almost got into a fight. The crowd was roaring as the Springboks beat the World team. We even did the wave several times around the stadium during the game.

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Today, we spent most of the day at Kirstenbosch gardens. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I can only let photos tell our experience. Nature is incredible. (The restaurant Moyo was also so so good, wehad kudu bobotie, peri-peri chicken, and Malva pudding).

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Week 2 Internship

A short selection of verbs that accurately describe my week:

researching
& writing
designing paper bag decals for an upcoming event
compiling blurry workshop photos of jumping schoolchildren
climbing the hill outside our house
eating malva pudding
sipping on pineapple, mint, green apple cold pressed juice
coming home from work in the rain
putting on my winter coat
taking off my winter coat
sitting and drinking tea
answering 11th grader’s questions
petting the parking guard’s dog
buzzing into the library
eating lunch alone
eating lunch with friends
running to catch the bus
resting in the warm grass outside the National Gallery
nestling on the benches of the Company Garden
purchasing a phone
(and failing to upload air time)
crying and hiccupping in laughter
sitting at the back of the bar
listening to rock music
practicing our Xhosa clicks
requesting an Uber
again and again and again
sewing student art projects together with twine
listening to pop music on the radio
meeting new friends
meeting a famous artist
watching the sunset from our upstairs porch
eating cold bagels at 7 in the morning
smelling lavender perfumes
and chatting with the macaroon store owner

I’ve had a hard time piecing this week together, and from running back and forth between the annex to the National Gallery and South African museum and up and down the steps to the library, I’ve realized that I haven’t been doing the same thing. Yentl and I discussed how each day’s different—how as an art educator, you need to be flexible and go with the flow and move quickly with the other staff members, bending to what they need to you to do. Wednesday, I received an assignment to design a cover for a gift bag handout at an upcoming event, and within 24 hours, the project was due. We also had tenth and eleventh grade students come into the annex for job shadowing—a part of high school student’s education to help them see what a real job’s like!—but the numbers came so quickly, without a true notice, and Yentl and I scrambled to find them jobs and include them in the work we’d been doing. Fortunately, the second day that happened, we were working on installing an exhibit in the studio space and their arrival was just in time! Most of my days are spent working with my mentor and various high school students that I’ve come to love and learn from. I find quietness and warmth in my hours spent in the library and laughter and catching up from my hour lunch with Billy and Ashley. We met some other American students this week who are heading back home in a few days. They expressed how they miss how, but I don’t feel that way—not quite yet.

Condition reports and more…

It’s been a crazy week at the Social History Resource Centre. Everyday we work on condition reports of objects being unpacked or objects which will be used for exhibitions. With few people working at the institution and far too much work to do, we never seem to get around to conservation. I have written object check lists this week for the Irma Stern and Siliva Zulu exhibitions. Irma Stern is an upcoming one with some objects that will be installed by the conservators only so I might have a hand at that next week. Siliva Zulu was an exhibition that just came down so we had to do the condition reports in case there was any damage while it was on display. I did sort of learn how to remove mold from an object with just a brush and a vacuum. I also got a chance to prepare objects for fumigation (tools that Billy had unpacked last week), which I also had to write an object list with conservation recommendations. I finally managed to finish the deinstallation list for Sue Williamson, which I have been working on since last Wednesday. We will probably begin crossing paths with Emily next week since she is working on the

Week 1 Internship: Placements, My City Buses, and Mentors

This week marks the first week of our internship. Monday, we went downtown all dressed up to the Iziko Museums to hear about our museum placements. Most of the Iziko Museums in Cape Town are centered around the Company Gardens and back-dropped by the stunning mountains. This is my work setting—crazy! I was assigned to a separate department from Ashley and Billy who are working in conservation. I’m working in (drumroll, please) the Art Education department housed in an annex space right next to the National Gallery that has a well-lit library above. We began our internship on Wednesday, leaving Tuesday to ride the bus and figure out our stops before starting the workweek.

So, short tangent about My City Bus (Cape Town’s city public trans). My City Bus is pretty cool. I live barely two blocks from the nearest stop, and the busses are so clean and nice and—unlike Chicago—the seats don’t smell like pee! Thank you, Cape Town, for your lovely bus system. On the other hand though, busses only run every hour on weekends. So when we tried to catch a bus to Hout Bay for the market this weekend and ending up missing our transfer stop, we had to get an Uber which was alright anyways. Uber’s here aren’t too expensive and apparently all the college kids are usin’ ‘em. Okay, back to work.

The internship so far is amazing! My mentor’s name is Yentl, and she’s seriously so cool. The first morning, we just sat and drank tea for the first hour getting to know one another. Her philosophies for her work as an art educator such as being teachable and flexible and always seeking to reach the audiences who don’t feel that museums are for them is so inspiring and makes me feel like I’m in the right place. The actual work in which I’m doing is so diverse as well. Since it’s winter break for the school kids, the annex hosted a robotics workshop and at the end of the week, I was able to help lead the kids in a fun collaging art project. I’m also helping Yentl prepare for an exhibition the education department (her and her co-worker) are preparing for December all based on the curriculum taught in South African schools. A total of six gallery spaces have been set aside for the show, and the art educators are able to pick from anything in the museum’s collection. So on Thursday, Yentl and I went to the storage units in the National Gallery, collecting titles and photographing artworks. Even though I’m in the art education department, I’m getting a taste of curatorial work as well which is crazy and stressful and messy, but really cool. And beyond that, I’m prepping some research for educational packets for the museum’s upcoming exhibit on the South African artist Irma Stern which is allowing me to using my writing skills too. Our first week flew by so quickly, the work days as well, and I’m looking forward to a full week of interning.

Sweet Sweet South Africa

We started our internship this week. Ashley and I spent the week at the Social History Centre working under Tessa and Bradley. Tessa is a collections manager and Bradley is a conservator. We did more than we had expected, from deinstalling and exhibition at the Slave Lodge, to looking at broken objects, to unpacking objects into the vaults. I feel like I’m getting do to things we never would be able to do in any other internship. There will be plenty more stories from here to come!

But in other news, I wanted to share more about our group’s dessert insanity since we’ve arrived in South Africa. There’s something about the way sweet things are made here that just hit the spot.  Things are never too sweet, which tends to be my problem with American desserts. Anyways, here’s a quick look at some memorable things we’ve had so far:

Morning Pastries

We had these super fluffy and buttery croissants in the cafe across from us in Melville in Joburg. A french person would probably scoff at this pastry because its not flakey or whatever. This one is more like a cross between a brioche, a croissant and a cloud. The plain one with a coffee was just a perfect breakfast.

Malva Pudding

We just all had our first Malva pudding today. Jim recommended one from Woolworths so we got one and tried it at our meeting in the afternoon. It’s so soft and caramel-ly. We followed the package instructions to heat up, so it was warm. I don’t usually think anything of bread puddings but wow…

Tiramisu

Ashley bought this great Tiramisu. I think it was also from Woolworths. The espresso that was in it was so intense. Once it entered your mouth, it was like an explosion of ground coffee, following by super creamy marscopone and then more coffee in the madeline. We don’t know what happened, but the entire package was gone in like less than two days.

Ice Cream

Ok we’ve had ice cream a lot since we’ve been here. There are just so many magnum bar flavors and ice cream shops! I also had the biggest soft serve ice cream at the bus stop next to the Table Mountain today. It was like 20 rand (less than $2) and it was like the equivalent of 6 scoops of ice cream. It was man vs. cone for a while until the bus came.

Milk Tart

We had our first milk tart at the Odendaal dinner a week ago. It’s is close to the egg tarts they sell in Chinese bakeries, but these are much lighter. Bread, Milk and Honey, by the Social History Center have these mini one’s that were also so good. We saw the most beautifully decorated one at Woolworths with a cinnamon dusted pattern on it! (Soon to be ours)

Cakes

Marit and Nate also dropped off a red velvet cake for us before they left as a goodbye present. Needless to say, we pretty much inhaled it… But otherwise, we’ve also been having some amazing chocolate cakes after restaurant meals too.

We’re just finishing our 3rd week here in South Africa. There is so much more to eat so stay tuned!

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Conservation Fun at Iziko!!!!

We finally started our internship yesterday!!! I have been placed at the Social History Centre for collections management and conservation experience. Billy is also joining me, as his mentor is M.I.A. As we toured the five floors of storage, I expected we would be eased into working. However, Bradley, the conservator, had different plans. We basically got straight into it. We began deinstalling an exhibit at the Slave Lodge and managed to finish removing most of the objects from one of the rooms. I also began taking condition notes on the objects to be later typed up in an official report. The assistant conservator, Janene, was extremely helpful in showing me how to do this properly since I had no prior experience working with objects. I also began taking photographs of the objects for the condition reports, which were added today after I typed them up.

As we continued to deinstall the Sue Williamsen exhibit, I photographed and packed away some postcards and photographs. Billy and I also kept inventory of the objects being packed away. I finally got the chance to work with an object more directly. Janene showed me how to clean a Freedom Charter T-Shirt with a screen and a vacuum. I photographed the object and wrote a condition report for it. The objects I’m most excited to work with will be the glass negatives we put together today. The piece was somehow damaged and the shards had to be reconstructed to account for any missing pieces. Janene will be showing me how to treat it next week. All in all, a very exciting and busy two days so far!!!

Sipping Wine on Saturdays and Penguin Mania

The gang packed up and road-tripped to Groot Constantia, an Iziko Museum all about wine located right on a vineyard. We drove along the coast spotting houses on hills that we wanted to buy and stopped to play catch with the ocean’s waves. The vineyard and grounds were beautiful complete with rolling hills and white ducks dipping in the river and snowcapped mountains in the distance. We wandered through the small museum and yard before sitting down for a wonderful lunch before our wine tasting tour. On the tour, I learned that pink wine’s made by both white and red grapes, producing a merge of both the color and taste and that red wines are more bitter due to the crushing of the grape’s seed that’s included in the final product (unlike white wines). Though the tour was crowded with mostly American students, I enjoyed the wine tasting at the end in which we also had the chance to taste chocolate made for each wine. The chocolate’s were kinda funky with their zesty lime, wet-wood, tobacco, Christmas taste, but I really enjoyed the milk chocolate cherry and Shiraz red wine and ended up purchasing some at the end.

After the wine tour, we continued to drive along the coast to Simon’s Town to see South Arica’s penguins. Before the sun set into the sea, we were able to go along the boardwalk to the bay where the (wild) penguins lived, penguins that apparently screech as though they were donkeys! I’d never see a penguin that close without a window of glass separating us (thanks Lincoln Park Zoo), and I loved seeing the funny birds nesting and swimming and napping on the sand. Before heading home, we all stopped for coffee and ice cream at a local shop that hung along the street.

That evening, Ashley, Billy, and I went to a small house party in the Cape Town suburb of Muizenberg that our South African friend described as a “game-night.” Billy took that “game” as in meat, Ashley thought sport, and I hoped it’d be a board game night in which it was thankfully the last! We played a board game that had mostly South African terms and pop references, and I was actually pretty shocked/embarrassed how bad I was at answering American pop questions, but we had a good time discussing aspects of culture shock and what living in a big city’s like. We had a splendid first day of the weekend and made some new friends along the way.