'Born-free'? Youth Day to Heritage Month exhibition at Constitution Hill

The Constitutional Court Trust, custodian of the Constitutional Court Art Collection (CCAC), together with Constitution Hill are presenting a solo exhibition by Richard 'Specs' Ndimande that opens 16 June, Youth Day, at 11:00.

Exhibition title: Freedom and Responsibility
Duration: 16 June (Youth Day)- 4 September 2022 (Heritage Month)
Number Four prison, Constitution Hill
Exhibition catalogue: Download (1.6 MB)

Opening RSVP: ccac@concourttrust.org.za
Heritage Month panel discussion and walkabout: 3 September 2022, 09:30 for 10:00 - RSVP by sending a mail to ccac@concourttrust.org.za
Walkabouts: 2 July 2022 at 11:30 - ticket link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e...
General access: Please be advised that access to the exhibition, other than through the opening and walkabouts, are ticketed through the Constitution Hill visitors centre.

Curatorial statement
In this exhibition, the artist questions the meaning of freedom. Throughout history, human beings have fought for liberation, and in South Africa, people of colour who were oppressed from the onset of colonialism fought against the apartheid regime. Those born in 1994 were called the ‘born-frees’, the year South Africa officially held its first democratic elections as part of the country’s transformation into a constitutional democracy. Ndimande, a ‘born-free’, grapples with the idea that the youth have been released from the shackles of the past. He also highlights current-day issues of rampant corruption and the lack of accountability from the leaders who brought along this very freedom.

In this body of work dating from 2017 to 2022, the exhibition responds to pertinent socio-political issues, including violence, racial tensions, ongoing oppression and the lack of change in the new South Africa.

Ndimande’s father was imprisoned during apartheid in the notorious Number Four prison section, established in 1902 to house Black male prisoners as part of the Old Fort prison, formerly the Johannesburg Jail, that had been in operation since 1893.

This exhibition, titled Freedom and Responsibility, is located in a group cell of the old Number Four prison, part of the living museum site Constitution Hill. The artist thus exhibits his work where his father was incarcerated. In addition, three drawings he donated to the Constitutional Court Art Collection (CCAC) in 2020, thereby becoming the youngest artist represented in the CCAC, are currently on view in the public gallery of the Constitutional Court. The drawings are installed facing Number Four and enter into conversation with the themes and locality of the exhibition.

This prison remains a deeply symbolic reminder of the ills of the apartheid regime and the extent to which it can harm a family unit. At the same time, the Constitutional Court stands as a continuous promise to address South Africa’s troubled past and its ongoing consequences.

In a conversation about being imprisoned in Number Four, Ndimande’s father mentioned that freedom from prison is only in part a physical longing to be outside of those walls. However, psychologically one often remains imprisoned by the trauma experienced when incarcerated under cruel conditions. The scars of violence and brutality created by other inmates and officers of the law remain etched in one’s memory far beyond the healing of the visible wound, Ndimande senior said.

Influenced by such emotive conversations with his father about South Africa’s past, Ndimande’s second solo exhibition is a vivid examination of how the progression of history coerces its younger generation into carrying the sins of their forebears. The artist set out to investigate what freedom requires from those who seek it. He guards against a modified continuation of society with a heavily conditioned mind, carrying the burden of deep-seated trauma. How does a people heal to avoid conforming to old patterns? It is this sense of responsibility that the artist seeks to evoke.

Artist bio
Richard ‘Specs’ Ndimande (b. 1994) studied at the University of Johannesburg, where he obtained a Degree in Fine Arts in 2017. His practice includes sculpture, drawing, painting, photography and mixed media. His artworks speak to social ills committed in South Africa and worldwide. He currently works and lives in Johannesburg.

For more info about Specs' work in the Constitutional Court Art Collection, see: https://ccac.concourttrust.org.za/news/2020/press-release-richard-specs-ndimande

Freedom and responsibility