Willem Boshoff Umhlabathi 2001 | Art.co.za | Art in South Africa
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Umhlabathi 2001


Venue: Installed at the front entrance to the Mpumalanga Legislature, Nelspruit
Description: 200 handfuls of soil in small receptacles placed on glass shelves in ten secure wooden cabinets

Umhlabathi is the siSwati word for 'soil' and the artwork UMHLABATHI brings homage to our indebtedness to the soil. The Freedom Charter states that "the land shall be shared amongst those who work it" and countries, at last free from foreign rule and domination, are delighted to assert their independence by reclaiming their soil. Not only is soil the mother of people, animals and plants, but the constitution, laws and ideals particular to a land are also firmly rooted in it. In modern parlance such home-grown dreams and aspirations are known as the autochthony of a country and the people who live for them are the autochthons - literally the "children of the soil".

A hundred and seventy handfuls of soil for UMHLABATHI were collected from provinces outside Mpumalanga and thirty samples from Mpumalanga itself

Examples of soils gathered from all over South Africa:

1 . AGGENEYS, Northern Cape, sand from a dry river bed at the foot of Kranskop.
2 . ALIWAL NORTH, Eastern Cape, urban soil from a site near hot water springs.
3 . AMANZIMTOTI, KwaZulu-Natal Southern Coast, sea sand from the shore of the Indian Ocean.
4 . AUGRABIES FALLS, Northern Cape, sand from deposits left by the 1988 Orange River floods.
5 . BARKLY WEST DISTRICT, Griqualand-West, Northern Cape, limestone road gravel from Delportshoop.
6 . BEESHOEK, Griqualand-West, Cape Province, manganese ore, unprocessed from the veld.
7 . CALEDON, South Western Cape, soil from the Swartberg foothills.
8 . CALVINIA, Hantam, Northern Cape, mountain shale from the Hantamsberg.
9 . CAPE TOWN, Western Cape, three hundred year old tended soil from the Castle garden.
10. CATHEDRAL PEAK, KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, pink San painting material from Baboon Rock.
11. MUDJADJI, Northern Province, river sand from dwellings in a rain forest near Duiwelskloof.
12. POSTMASBURG DISTRICT, Griqualand-West, Northern Cape, specularite, a traditional cosmetic from Gatkoppiesgrot.
13. GRAHAMSTOWN DISTRICT, Eastern Province, traditional Xhosa initiation pigment also used for porcelain.

Examples of soils from Mpumalanga province:

1 . BELFAST Soil from a mealie land on the Highveld.
2 . DULLSTROOM DISTRICT Mountain sand from De Berg at the highest altitude in S.A.
3 . LYDENBURG DISTRICT. Hillside gravel from the Echo Caves area.
4 . MACHADADORP Ground slate from a hillside on a trout farm.
5 . MARBLE HALL, Springbokvlakte. Marble dust from the town pavements.
6 . MIDDELBURG Soil from the veld near Uitkyk Railway Station.
7 . ORIGHSTAD DISTRICT Earth from the site of a historical Voortrekker entrenchment.
8 . PIET RETIEF DISTRICT Talcum powder from a mine near the Swazi border.
9 . ROOSSENEKAL DISTRICT Aluvial volcanic soil from farm near Koppiesvlei.
10. SIYABUSWA, Kwa-Ndebele, sand from a dry river at Moutse.
11. MALELANE Mpumalanga soil from a site where the lala palm trees grow.

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