Hello Africa #3 – Barbadian Artist Sheena Rose’s residency at Cape Town’s Greatmore Gallery
The ending of Africa literally
Lea and I decided that we will return to the same route , we got to Boulder beach where the penguins were but we’ll be going to Cape Point instead. It was a long drive to get there, but since we drove the route the day before, it was easier and quicker to get to Cape Point. We finally reach our destination. I couldn’t believe that I was actually going to the end of Africa. I laugh to myself and thought, “This is crazy, I would never thought in my life that I will be at the ending of Africa literally.”
Lea drove to the entrance of Cape Point and we got out of the car. There were these long flights of steps. I told Lea, “Girl, we can do this!” we started to walk on the steps. I began to walk like if I was exercising but the higher we gotten, the more my heart began to race and my breathing was very heavy. When I thought that the steps were finishing, I suddenly realized that there were more. It felt like the steps were multiplying or I was really unfit.
We finally reached the top of Cape Point and there was a lighthouse and arrows. These arrows were directing where each continents were. The wind was very strong, our clothes and hair were flying all over the place . I was worried that my glasses would fly away into the ocean. It was so much fun but very windy.
I said, “Wow, I am really at the end of Africa literally!” Cape Point was really amazing. After Cape Point, we decided to just drive around the country and the enjoy the rest of day.
Very depressing indeed…
Now, everyone back home in Barbados, was telling me , that I must go to Nelson Mandela’s Prison. I thought that was a very important and historic place to visit in Cape Town. Lea, Akansha , a young artist from India and I took the Ferry to go to Robben Island. That was where the political prison located during the time of the Apartheid. We hopped onto the ferry, very excited and quickly went on to the top of the boat. It took us, an half an hour to reach the island. the island was very foggy, cold and eerie.
The passengers from the ferry went into a bus. The tour guide told us to be quiet and introduce himself. The bus stop at various places on the island. The tour guide would tell us, a story of the particular spots. The more I heard the stories and history, the more I became depressrd.
The final stop was the prison, we met another tour guide at the entrance of the prison, this time he was a prisoner from Robben Island. We enter a cell in the prison and he explained that the political prisoners were the strongest and most feared on the island. THe prisoners would slept on the floor and all 60 prisoners would have to share four bathroom together. He also explained that the whites prisoners would never be on Robben island, only the Indian, Asians, Coloured and Blacks were there.
During Winter, the Indians, Asians and Colored were allowed to wear long sleeves shirts and long pants but the black prisoners had to wear short sleeve shirts and pants through out the whole year. When I heard that I really felt very sad and angry about the situation.
The tour guide inform us that the prisoners were not called by their name, there were given a different name or let’s say a code, so Mandela was called “46664” for 28 years.
We had a tour around the prison and the place was very depressing indeed. I finally saw Nelson Mandela’s prison and I thought when I return home, I could tell everyone that I went to the prison but for some reason, I kind of regretted that I went to it. It had me feeling sad.
I got home in the evening, and my dad called me, I was telling him the history and suddenly I burst into tears. I couldn’t believe that the history impact me so much. My dad tried to make me feel better but I couldn’t get those disturbing images out of my mind.
The next day, I visit the studios and Jill Trapper, the Co-founder of Greatmore Studios, asked me how the tour went.
Akansha told her about how it was disturbing how the prisoners had different clothes because of their race. I burst into tears and and told her that it was down right unfair, why the blacks??? I am black!!! Jill called a fellow artist that works at Greatmore studios, his name was Lionel. I discovered that he was a political prisoner and he went to prison with Nelson Mandela.
He explained the history of the apartheid; that the blacks and the whites could not talk to each other , or have any sort of contact with each other. If they were caught , the blacks would go to prison. Also the blacks had to carry a pass to go through the whites area, again if they were caught without the pass, they would be sentenced to prison. So there was a group that was against the apartheid rules and Mandela was the leader of this group. He was sentence to prison and any other members. But what broke Apartheid, was actually Robben Island Prison. Lionel said that the worst mistake government did , was to put all the race together in the prison.
The political prisoners would educate each other, there were lawyers, doctors and artists. They would also educate the guards too. These guards would become their friends and send messages to the mainland and the media about Robben Island. The political prisoners were the most feared on Robben Island.
While I was listening to the history, I was still crying. Lionel said “Sheena, do not look at the negative part of Robben Island, look at the positive.” then he smiled at me. I returned a smile and give him a hug. I actually felt better, smile and say “Nelson Mandela and the political prisoners are my heroes!”
Networking here I come
After Robben Island, I wanted to have fun again. I visited galleries, exhibitions and museums. I went to many galleries such as Michael Stevenson, Goodman gallery, Iziko and Iart Gallery. I noticed the art in Cape Town were influence by the history and politics of apartheid. I really enjoy visiting these galleries and get some more ideas for my work. This residency was very useful, I get my own studio during the three months and also get to visit galleries. I love to network and meet artists and curators. I wanted Cape Town to know that Sheena Rose was here…
Part 4 soon coming, the next episode will be about getting accepted to an art festival and also the process of Sheena Rose’s work. watch out!