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Stroke of success for Yellowwood Park artist

Jessica Bothma's winning artwork is a poignant commentary on freedom and confinement in contemporary South Africa.

JESSICA Bothma, an artist hailing from Yellowwood Park, soared to the top, clinching the coveted first place at the KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts (KZNSA) 2024 Members’ Award recently.

Her winning piece, titled Mating Birds vs Sitting Ducks, emerged as a beacon of creativity amid a pool of talented submissions, intricately weaving the theme of visual prose into its fabric.

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The theme of this year’s competition, ‘A visual prose’, drew its essence from the rich cultural tapestry of KwaZulu-Natal. It urged artists to intertwine words, proverbs and parables into their artworks, paying homage to the literary legacies of figures like Mazisi Kunene, Mbongeni Ngema and Gcina Mhlope. The objective was to craft a nuanced exploration of language and imagery, transcending conventional artistic boundaries.

Bothma’s path to victory was paved with previous accolades, having secured a merit award for one of her earlier submissions. Armed with an art degree from the Durban University of Technology, she is currently embarking on her master’s journey while imparting her knowledge as a part-time sculpture lecturer at the university.

In her artistic pursuits, Bothma reveals a profound connection to the lives and narratives of South African people, often delving into themes of identity, belonging and post-colonial discourse.

Reflecting on her artistic ethos, Bothma remarked, “It deals a lot with the ideology of belonging and questioning where we belong in a post-colonial society. It’s that constant state of wondering where we belong that actually brings us together.”

‘Mating Birds vs Sitting Ducks’ by Jessica Bothma. Photo: Dillon Pillay.

Mating Birds vs Sitting Ducks, her award-winning masterpiece, serves as a poignant commentary on freedom and confinement in contemporary South Africa. Portraying a figure peering through jail bars at two birds outside, the piece symbolises the enduring constraints of barred homes juxtaposed with the illusion of freedom in a post-apartheid era. Bothma deftly incorporates elements from the works of artist Henry Roussouw to underscore the complexity of our environment.

“I draw inspiration from South African contexts, infusing my work with humour and vibrant colours,” Bothma elucidated. “Oscar Wilde once said, ‘You can only tell the truth through beauty or humour.’ I choose to employ both in my art.”

For Bothma, this award serves as a testament to her satisfaction with her artistic journey and her vision for the future.

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