MTN SA Foundation today unveiled a sculpture to commemorate the pivotal role that South African healthcare workers have played in helping South Africa progress through the COVID-19 pandemic. The artwork has been donated and installed at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH) in Johannesburg.
“With the prolonged impact COVID-19 pandemic has had on South Africa and on artists and the art world in particular, we decided that now was the right time to embark on a positive project. Through this project, MTN Foundation is enabling South African artists, to get up, get going, and progress through the COVID-19 pandemic” says Jacqui O’Sullivan, MTN SA’s executive for corporate affairs.
The project was done in a call for entries, where MTN SA Foundation invited five emerging artists between the ages of 21 and 35, to submit concepts for artworks that use technology as the medium to recognise South African healthcare workers. The selected emerging artists were:
Alexa Pienaar, who recently completed her master’s in Fine Art at the University of Johannesburg proposed an installation called Shift-19 which stretches 3m in length, consists of fifteen 3D printed discs that metaphorically and visually represent that of a disassembled telescope. “COVID-19 has had an impact on how we see the world, on our perspectives, and this comes through in the piece,” says Pienaar.
The disassembled pieces of the telescope that hold layers of city skylines (and other significant shapes), construct a large silhouette of a healthcare worker putting on a mask which can only be seen from the front of the installation. This is done in remembrance of the heroic efforts of the healthcare workers during these challenging times as the silhouette signifies bravery. The figure walks towards the viewer in a stance that imitates that of confidence while pulling his/her mask on with their coat flapping behind them – almost how a superhero would do when pulling open their everyday clothes, revealing their superhero outfit underneath, with their cape flapping behind them.
The discs assembled around a steel frame are flat cut-outs with landscape imagery in their inner semi-circles and patterns of the virus’s round shapes as textures on their outer platforms. This is accompanied by a smaller telescope through which to, metaphorically, view the larger ‘pieces’ of the telescope and, ultimately, Johannesburg city in the background. But once the viewer looks through the smaller telescope, they discover that it functions as a microscope, revealing the corona virus, the tiny virus that has had such a huge impact.
“I’m humbled to have been selected to commemorate health care workers. While we continue to distance ourselves from our families, friends and other relatives, and may feel physically isolated, new avenues of technological exploration and reconnection become possible” said Pienaar. “Shift-19is an interactive installation around which to move and view the separate pieces, as one would shift one’s perspective and view a situation from multiple angles. It, ultimately, serves as a symbol of realisation, adaptation and gratitude” said Pienaar.
The sculpture has been donated to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. “Not only is the hospital a state-of-the-art specialist paediatric academic and tertiary referral hospital but it also houses a notable art collection,” explains O’Sullivan.
“The hospital provides child-centred highest quality medical services to children of Southern Africa, regardless of their social and economic status in a safe, comfortable, healing and yet playful environment for children.” Says Konehali Gugushe CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the founder of NMCH. “NMCH is flagship project of the Fund. We continue to celebrate the incredible work at the institution and the various partners who have joined us on our journey. The 3D artwork piece is set to be placed within the Children’s Garden at the hospital, with a playful and fun theme for children to interact with. It was a natural fit to have the installation of the art piece on NMCH grounds, particularly as we also celebrate Mandela Month.”
The Hospital is currently running a fundraising campaign called #ServeLikeMadiba and Give Like They’re Yours which is a call on the public to support the only dedicated children’s facility in Gauteng including its patients and families. In July, the month of Nelson Mandela’s birthday, MTN SA Foundation aims to drive SA forward and encourage the public to donate through the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund MoMo account at
“Children with health conditions often experience feelings of loneliness and anxiety, a feeling that their lives are defined by their diagnosis”, says Bongi Mautloa-Dhlomo, art curator at the hospital, “and the creative sculpture can be an important part of the healing. We therefore, encourage South Africans to donate to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and help our children heal and grow.”
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