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Exploring ‘The Blind Alphabet’ with MTN Foundation’s Niel Nortje

CF:The Blind Alphabet is a body of work that Boshoff began in 1990. What makes the series such an enduring and continually relevant body of work?
NN: I believe Willem Boshoff’s Blind Alphabet project is not only the first body of South African sculptural work that reverses the roles between sighted and visually impaired viewers; it has also since the earliest exhibitions thereof demonstrated the impartial solidarity, that was and still is, prevalent within the visually impaired community. Perhaps, if you cannot see the colour of a person’s skin, and can empathise and understand his or her challenges with the disability, you become [differently situated] in your heightened understanding of humanity. This is noticeable in some of the earliest recordings of Willem’s engagement with a multi-racial group of visually impaired visitors to one of the first displays of the Blind Alphabet at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 1990. This is avaluable lesson and example to a new South African society which is still racially divided. 

UJ Moving Cube online gallery Willem Boshoff
Willem Boshoff, B40-Bigeminate

CF: This exhibition is currently being showcased through UJ’s Moving Cube digital gallery space. What are some of the challenges and benefits of exhibiting a visually and tangibly complex body of work like this on a digital platform?
NN: Our first challenge was to develop high quality digital renditions of the existing body of work and its accompanying chronicles. The considerable records in the MTN Foundation’s archives on the provenance of Babery to Bigeminate was to be updated to high-quality, engaging digital content that is worthy of this oeuvre of work, while not diverting from the original intention of the Blind Alphabet. Producing such content with the addition of Dr. Jaco Meyer’s remarkable musical renditions for each of the 40 pieces, and the accompanying interviews, was a tremendously interesting and rewarding endeavor, all made possible by Annali [Cabano-Dempsey] and her team’s successful coordination and delivery thereof. The most obvious benefit of showcasing this project on the UJ’s Moving Cube platform will be the exponential increase in exposure and contribution towards audience development for both institutions. Also, it showcases how the MTN Art Collection will be the first to have musical renditions accompany and enhance its collection of the Blind Alphabet, while promoting its transition into the digital age.

Continue reading our Q&A with Niel Nortje

Navigate through our Moving Cube articles:

Willem Boshoff exhibition – The Blind Alphabet

Moving Cube – a newly developed UJ Art Gallery website

Mentorship, education and the Emerging Artist Development Programme – how to enter

Exploring The Blind Alphabet with MTN Foundation’s Niel Nortje

Curating context online: Annali Cabano-Dempsey discusses UJ’s Moving Cube

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