Language helps us give expression to a multitude of thoughts, experiences and emotions. Yet as versatile as any one language is, all have their limits. For those times when we literally cannot find the words, art offers us an alternative means of expression. Abigail Calata asked a number of leading UCT minds for their take on how the arts help us express what words cannot.
"Essentially the language of art is the metaphor. The way of the actor/artist has been, and always will be, a path of insight to personal knowledge; and through this insightful personal knowledge, to reflect and interpret for the world an understanding. We need more than ever the presence of the actor/artist to help us touch that which is too often beyond our rational comprehension." Geoffrey Hyland, Head of Drama.
Dr Ivan Toms, a former SHAWCO director, in a clinic in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, shortly before being sent to prison for refusing to report for military service in 1987. Photograph by Graeme Williams, courtesy of the Then and Now project, UCT Libraries Special Collections.
"I continue to be inspired by the power of photographs to be suggestive, interpretive and to travel way beyond the material plane sometimes, as if they were magical. For one who works in the archive I am struck by the extraordinary role photography plays in relation to memory work as we face our traumatic past, deal with the challenges of the present, and imagine a place we call South Africa." Paul Weinberg, Photographer and Senior Curator of the Visual Archive.
Senior students of African dance perform in Maxwell Rani's Amajuba. This choreographic work was loosely based on Xhosa mythology, and performed at the Baxter Concert Hall in 2012.
Dance is a communicative tool from and of the body; and as such, emanates from a wellspring of our collective (hi)stories – Dance helps us as humans make more sense of our world and each other. It elevates the notion of what shared humanity could look like in the social space, allowing the dialogue between private/interior worlds and public/exterior worlds to begin." Gerard Samuel, Director of the School of Dance.
A performance from artist Athi-Patra Ruga's The Future White Women of Azania: The manifesto at the 2012 Live Art Festival, presented by the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts. The artist describes his work as "bursting with eclectic multicultural references, carnal sensuality and a dislocated undercurrent of humour".
"Verbal language can be seen as the broad strokes of one's consciousness, and art helps us to get between those broad strokes into the subtleties of highly subjective experience. This can be overwhelmingly energising when one's inexplicable mysteries find themselves expressed in an art work. Art opens up a vitality that one never imagined possible, and gives one a sense of the depths and heights of which one is capable." Jay Pather, Director of the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts.
A trumpeter performing in the 2014 Africa Day Alumni Concert.
Through music we can enter and explore a realm that lies beyond our mundane existence, a realm where everything that makes us human - heart and mind and body and soul - can be expressed without the constraints of the three dimensions that imprison us in this world. It is the purest embodiment of the unique enrichment that art can bring to the life of each one of us. Hendrik Hofmeyr, Head of Composition and Theory.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.