African Seed

African Seed


Date: 1986
Dimensions: H 1.5m
Media: Muranti and poles

Andries Botha on “African Seed”


This work, “African Seed”, formed part of a seminal exhibition for me entitled “Human Structures” which was held in the late 80’s. This work deviates slightly from the other works in as much as it was not completely made out of organic indigenous materials. The other works mostly utilized traditional craft and weaving techniques.


It is difficult in retrospect to think about a show and construct the narrative for it, some 30 years later . I do, however, remember the following: in constructing the exhibition I used the dimensions of my own body as a unit of measure. I was making works in the Drakensberg mountains where I was living with a traditional African family. Upon my return to the city I wanted to continue the ideas that I was working on but needed to deal with them in a different way.


As a young boy I was always interested in model aeroplanes and took great delight in buying the kits and meticulously reconstructing them. The beauty and the poetry of the wing structure of the early biplanes as well as the German Second World War Zeppelins always fascinated me. The skin always revealed an inner structure.


Most of the works in this exhibition reduced the human form to a simple dimension. I was interested in how a body is carried when it is in the grip of a great idea. In many respects I was at the beginnings of a narrative or conversation about what I believe South African could be if it heeded the lessons of, what was then, a discredited African tradition.


The direct and deliberate response to structure, the manner in which it was made was an abiding lesson for me as a student so deeply invested in an university education which was exclusively Western. Even then I was aware that we needed to break this imperative if we were to establish a vernacular that was unique to South Africa.


Andries Botha February 2012