FOR two decades Gcina Mhlope has been dreaming of creating a space to capture the stories of the people of South Africa.
That dream is now set to be a reality for the renowned activist, actress, storyteller, poet, playwright, director and author.
“I have been dreaming about opening the Memory House for more than 20 years,” she said. “This oral history museum will give people a space to tell their stories … and because the truth has many faces, people will be able to share different versions of the same story.
“There will be stories of triumph, loss, some personal history. It will be a place belonging to all South Africans, a place where young people can come and listen to stories of the past.”
Mhlope’s Memory House has been given space at Pixley House in Durban, courtesy of the company Propertuity.
“Now we need to get support to be able to equip the space with the electronics,” Mhlope said, adding that she planned to have recording booths for people to set down their stories, a digital archive and regular storytelling events.
To help fund the Memory House, Mhlope is recording a CD, titled Hope Song, and all the royalties will be going towards the project.
She is also planning to use money raised from the sale of a poster created for her during the 21 Icons project for the oral history centre, which is due to host its first event on September 23.
And this weekend, visitors to an exhibition celebrating the AfriCanis dog — staged at the Normand Dunn Gallery at Hilton College on June 13 and 14 — will be able to contribute to the project by buying a painting donated by wildlife artist Brent Dodd.
Dodd and Ed Schroeder, who is well-known for his beautiful photographs of Nguni cattle, will be showcasing their work in the joint exhibition. They were drawn to the indigenous African breed through the work done by Edith and John Gallant, which was recorded in the book The Story of the African Dog.
The couple are passionate advocates for the breed, which is only found in isolated tribal lands in the interior of Zululand, the former Transkei, Sekhukhuneland and Vendaland.
“These animals have a story of their own and it needs to be told,” says Dodd, “I want to tell the story of their heritage and that is what I have tried to do in my paintings … to capture the essence of these animals and the people they live with.”
For Schroeder it’s a chance to use his lens to bring the dogs into the spotlight in the same way he did with the Nguni. “This is an exhibition which, we hope, will ignite a larger conversation around Nguni cattle and the AfriCanis dog. It’s going to be a visual feast of history.”
Mhlope will be attending the official opening of the exhibition on Friday evening. “I will be singing the Hope Song and I will be telling a story,” she said.
• If you would like to find out more about the Memory House, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
• To find out more about the AfriCanis and the work done by the Gallants, go to www.africanis.co.za
• For more on Ed Schroeder and his work, go to the website www.edschroeder.co.za
• For more on Brett Dodd, go to this website www.brentdodd.com or like his Facebook page: brentdoddartist
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