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29 March 2012 at 11:24 - Posted by Anonymous

Anger at artist’s use of Robben Island fence


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Cape Town artist Chris Swift rescued the old fencing from Robben Island to create jobs by teaching people to make artefacts from the fencing.

THE inadvertent illegal use of a piece of Robben Island fencing has popped up in an art piece by local artist Conor Mccreedy in a New York gallery.

This has led to the Cape Times finding that another Cape Town artist, Chris Swift, rescued 2 000m2 of old fencing from the island on which Nelson Mandela and other liberation movement leaders were held prisoner.

Swift came across the pile of fencing while on an educational tour of Robben Island in 2009. But a huge social enterprise initiative to use the fencing to create jobs for people by making art of the fencing has sadly fallen flat.

The Robben Island Museum confirmed the fencing was discarded when the R24 million renovation of the site was completed in 2009.

Swift got the fencing from Ruwacon, the contractor employed to do the refurbishment. Ruwacon was contracted to replace all the prison fencing on Robben Island and confirmed giving ownership of the fence to Swift saying it would otherwise have gone to a landfill.

But this weekend it emerged that part of the fencing was used in an installation by SA artist, Mccreedy who is also a model based in New York.

Mccreedy currently has an exhibition titled African Ocean at the Charles Bank Gallery with one of the pieces being a typical shack with its windows covered with pieces of the fencing.

Mccreedy told the Cape Times that he obtained the fencing from RIACT (Robben Island Art and Co Trust), which is Swift and his partners’ social enterprise. He refused to comment further.

Swift’s partner, Jacques de Bruin, sent over a sample of the fence to Mccreedy as they have been spending the past two years trying to get people interested in creating something new from the fencing.

Swift and De Bruin were not aware that Mccreedy had used the fence sample in an artwork.

“We tried to form partnerships with various organisations to make artefacts and create jobs but no one was interested. We wanted to increase the exposure of this piece of heritage and that is why the sample was sent to Conor but it was never returned. It is unauthorised use of it,” Swift said.

Robben Island Museum chief executive Sibongiseni Mkhize explained that although the museum was a National and World Heritage site which had to be protected, materials could be removed if permission is granted.

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