Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Remembering Protest

In an earlier blog-post sent through by Leslie Witz entitled 'Securing Hostel 33 for the Museum purposes' he described:

'When the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum was initially conceived of it was only Hostel 33 that was intended to be the museum. However, the museum had been unable to take possession of Hostel 33 as there were people living in it and alternative accommodation had not been found for them either in the Hostels to Homes project or in the RDP houses that were being built in Lwandle. The museum could not evict the residents but it did suggest that they place themselves on the waiting list for new houses. They did this, but for several years those living in Hostel 33 were not allocated new housing in Lwandle. Visitors to the museum (which had relocated to the Old Community Hall in Vulindlela Street) were still taken to Hostel 33 but with permission of those residing there.'

On the 1 May 2000, the day that the Museum opened, residents of Hostel 33 expressed their concern about losing accommodation and a protest sign was displayed on the door of Hotel 33 expressing residents' concerns. Leslie Witz was there and took the photograph below, recording the beginning of the Museum's struggle to assist with finding new accommodation for these residents and to secure the hostel for museum purposes.

Image of Protest sign of the sign displayed on the door of Hotel 33 by residents on the day that the LMLM opened on 1May 2000. Photograph: Leslie Witz.

In thinking about restoring Hostel 33, we have been concerned that this important struggle is somehow recorded in the exhibition at the Hostel. But the original sign has long since disappeared and all that we have is Leslie's photograph.

In this instance the team decided to remake the sign as an artifact, and artist Vivienne Gray was commissioned to do this. Using the photograph she carefully remade the sign, using similar materials - an old cardboard box - and slowly and meticulously copied the handwritten lettering in khoki pen.

Image of the reconstructed sign - 'on the drawing board' - commissioned by the LMLM's designer Jos Thorne and made by artist Vivienne Gray, 6 April 2010. Photograph: Vivienne Gray.

Once the sign was made, the team debated how to use it in the Hostel, now in 2010. Instead of securing it to the door, where it was originally displayed, it was decided that the sign will be hung inside the hostel. It has been framed (see image below), so that it is noticeably and artifact with the intention of marking this important moment on its history, and not simply reverting to the day, now almost 10 years ago, when it was first displayed.

On the 1 May 2010 the sign will be part of the new exhibition, and in this way, acknowledging the recent history of people living in Hostel 33, after 2000.

Image of the sign - remade for museum purposes by Vivienne Gray - and framed, ready to be installed in Hostel 33, 22 April 2010. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

Lunga Smile, LMLM's Curator admires the recreated sign as new artifacts are being accessioned at the Museum, 28 April 2010. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

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