Ivor Ichikowitz, Founder of Ichikowitz Family Foundation Interviewed on upcoming exhibition
Among three main focuses of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, the Heritage Initiative – the African Oral History Archive, aims to preserve the untold stories of Africa’s transformation through art, film, music, dialogue and debate.
‘Last year we launched our Heritage Art Collection in Alexandra and now in celebration of 20 years of our Constitution we launch, together with Constitution Hill, It’s A Fine Line: A historic multi-media experience. It’s a brand new collection of unique drawings, immortalising people, places and events that changed the course of South Africa’ s history. Alongside the individual pieces, rare archive footage will be showcased in prison cells. A combination of the accurate recording of history and the artist’s perspective, plus the opportunity for viewers – or for people that are consuming the works – to impose their own opinion.’
Ichikowitz explains, ‘We expect that sometimes things are going to be controversial, but rather have the discussion because only by having the discussion and the dialogue do you start to learn to respect other people’s points of view and opinions. I think that we should strive to perpetuate the concept that there is no absolute good or bad, no absolute right or wrong. The whole concept of a democracy is that you’re allowed to have lots of opinions and I want to see art being used more and more as a tool or a platform for that kind of discourse and dialogue.’
Although It’s A Fine Line coincides with the 20th anniversary of the South African Constitution, Ichikowitz finds it to be a fortunate coincidence. He adds, ‘This exhibition, or this collection, was commissioned several years ago and it’s a very important and complex body of work and each piece takes months and months and months to prepare. So the collection has been assembled over several years. It was originally intended to be for the 20th anniversary of our democracy, but clearly it’s a far more appropriate time to launch the exhibition this year in celebration of our Constitution.’
Ichikowitz expresses how he has always wanted to use Constitution Hill as the venue for the exhibition because of the amazing space that encapsulates the energy and the spirit of both the struggle as well as transformation. ‘The exhibition will be shown for six weeks at Constitution Hill alongside an education programme that includes a specially-designed curriculum guide for history teachers and learners. I’m extremely firm that we don’t just do art exhibitions for the sake of art. Those individuals featured in the collection alert us to the emotional realities of those who sacrificed and worked towards ushering in our Constitution – and so we also launch a call to action to breathe, to walk, to live and to safeguard our Constitution.’
During the interview, it became apparent that It’s A Fine Line, and the driving force behind it, is a very personal passion of Ichikowitz’s. ‘I think, first of all, this is very personal to me because I believe that I had the great privilege of living through one of the most important times in history, not just South African history but history of the world, and I consider myself to be even more privileged than that by having been able to play an active, albeit small, part in the process. For that reason, I believe that my generation has the choice to preserve and communicate through the true history for the benefit of future generations. So this is very much a crusade for me.’