Still Life

Still Life

Date: 1995
Dimensions: 200cm x 150cm x 150cm
Media: Steel, acacia seeds, thatching grass


Part of the “What is a home?” series

Purchased by Martinique

Andries Botha on “Still Life”


I had two concurrent invitations which were relevant to the making of this work. In the first instance, I was invited by a Dutch NGO to participate in a residency with national and international artists in Mozambique, Maputo. The workshop was held in conjunction with Nucleo de Arte. The second event was that I was invited to produce a work for an exhibition curated by Annick Thebia-Melsan to celebrate the life of the esteemed Martinican poet Aimé Césaire.


As a result of this exhibition, I came into contact with the extraordinary poems of Césaire (translated into English). Participating artists were requested to make a work that celebrated his life. I had wondered where one could draw an archetypal image from that would in a way come close to Césaire’s profound understanding of how human beings are so inextricably tied to the very land and soil that nurtured them. Césaire spoke so poetically about the epic questions of the day: sense of identity, political power, the disenfranchisement of humanity and, of course, the love of land.


I wanted to make a work that dealt with the timeless narrative of humanity caught within the epic. In this respect I turned to the relationship between mother and child, the timeless narrative which moves through cultures and belief systems, about the essential relationship that nurtured us all. In short, I turned to the natural vegetation of Maputo, the acacia trees and the grasses that grew there and were used for the roofing of humble homes. I guess, in retrospect, I created an African pieta. This work stands axiomatically in relationship with a long line of historically defined metaphors that explore this ancient theme. This work also forms part of the massive epic : “What is a home?”


The work has been purchased by the principality of Port du France in Martinique. It is also interestingly the first work of mine purchased outside of South Africa.