A newly opened exhibition at the KZNSA Gallery in Durban encourages gallery visitors to punch the artworks.
This unusual injunction is a brief hiatus in the KZNSA’s usual position on the preservation of the artworks it exhibits, and is related to Capetonian academic Johann van der Schijff’s current exhibition, the Community Punching Bags Project. With support from the Prince Claus Fund, van der Schijff worked with arts educators and high school learners from the greater Cape Town area on designs for leather punching bags that represent some of the political and social frustrations that face young South Africans today. Van der Schijff then crafted the punching bags, and invited the learners with whom he had worked and others to try them out. His audiences are invited literally to punch the artworks, a gesture that speaks to their design origins but also, according to the artist, to their value as cathartic objects. The Community Punching Bags Project shows at KZNSA under the organisation’s Social Art in Development (S.A.I.D) Programme, which is funded by the National Lotteries Distribution Fund. According to a statement released by the KZNSA, this project aims to show that issues often not spoken about openly, such as those that deal with violence, “the other”, stereotyping, discrimination, racism, xenophobia and human rights, can be addressed in a collaborative and creative way through the making of art. And, of course, punching.