49-year-old Ivy Radipodi is currently showcasing at Thapong Visual Arts Centre an exhibition dubbed ‘The Mirrored Self’.
The Art teacher at Naledi Senior Secondary School (NSSS) has displayed 10 pieces challenging the status quo when it comes to issues relating to married women.
Radipodi, who has been a visual artist for over two decades, takes The Voice’s SHARON MATHALA through her current work.
Although all of her pieces portray different messages, there is one that steals my attention.
The piece is called ‘In her shoes- her foot’.Radipodi has created a foot-like structure covered in bandage with a huge pin pricking through it.
She explains that she was expressing how married women are expected to be the housekeeper and often have to walk around with all the pain and bandages of the household.
Additionally she says it communicates the pain and love the woman is expected to uphold.
Q. What inspired the theme of this exhibition?
A. I wanted to express my view of the way we see the women in marriage, especially through traditional norms and expectations.
As women, we carry a lot of stuff, heavy issues that our male counterparts, in my view, may not be able to handle.
This is why I decided to go for this theme of ‘A woman as her own vessel’.
There are a lot of societal expectations when it comes to married women so I decided to express such issues.
Q. Tell us about your journey with visual arts.
A. I was introduced to this different form of art when I went to further my studies in neighboring South Africa, I think in the early 1990s.
I saw arts in a different eye; the art there is in a whole different ball game and level hence why I changed my concepts from being a sculpture to conceptual artist.
Q. So what exactly is conceptual art?
A. It is basically a form of art that communicates a particular topic.
Like now I am more interested in healing art. I use art as a therapeutic tool.
I try and open dialogue on women related issues through art just as I have done with these exhibition pieces today.
Q. Why issues around married women in particular?
A. Well because of societal expectation and how married women are perceived, especially in Botswana.
How women are expected to be, how married women should carry themselves, how they are judged – I feel like it is a whole lot of baggage and expectation unlike the male counterpart.
Married women tend to bottle up issues and hence suffer the most.
Q. What do you think your pieces communicate?
A. Healing. A lot of us perceive healing as going to a doctor or a shrink.
But I believe one can counsel themselves by just doing a piece of artwork.
It can soothe your soul by just creating a piece out of your emotions.
Q. Take us through the process of creating an artwork through your eyes.
A. Most of the time I observe social ills around our society.
Then I pick one or two and start planning.
After that and coming up with the title, I do some research.
I read stories of other people even in other countries.
After conceptualizing the theme, then I think about if the audience will understand the work.
Mostly I make pieces that I can relate with as well because it is easier.
Q. On average, how long does it take you to complete a piece?
A. It depends really.
It can take up to 20 years just working on one piece!
Artists don’t sleep!
Some ideas come through vision and then drawing, planning and concept and finally executing the work takes time.
You can’t just wake up and say I am going to do this piece and then boom it’s done.
It takes time, especially with my line of artistry.
Q. What is the one dominant object in your artwork?
A. I always use recycled items.
Anything I see on the roads, what you normally consider litter I often collect it and keep it at my house and later use them for the artworks.
Q. How many exhibitions have you done before this one?
A. I have done many in my lifetime.
I have done some on HIV/AIDS pandemic, solo exhibitions here in Gaborone some in Cape Town, USA and Namibia.
Q. What does art mean to you?
A. Art is life. Everything is art.
Everything we do is art – the way you sleep, the way you eat or even walk.
Sometimes people think art is restricted to a selective few but to me art is in our everyday life, it is second to air!
Q. Art in Botswana has not necessarily reached a level where one can take it as their means of survival – why do you think that is?
A. As practicing artists, one should take the craft as a business.
One should be an entrepreneur; there is a lot of potential in art.
There is still a lot of ground in Botswana to have art as a source of income and not just as a side gig.
I know most of us treat it as that, as a hobby, but this is a whole business that if taken seriously can rake in millions.
Q. You mentioned that you are an Arts teacher?
A. Yes I am Arts teacher, dealing with special needs students.
And what you see here really is what I do with my students.
Most of them take art just as a subject, but I take them through this form of art – an art to communicate feelings.
Most of them leave the secondary school with exciting projects.
You can never really know what you are capable of creating until you create something that is close to you, that is close to your heart and what you and your friends go through.
Q. When you are not in class and making art pieces, what do you get up to?
A. I am a family woman. I love spending time with my children and husband.
My family is made of artists: my husband is a performing artist, my three sons are into art – so you can imagine the conversations in the house!
All of us are artists really except for my one son who wants to go into the field of Science, that’s not a bad family set-up right?
Q. Not at all! Anything else?
A. My other passion really lies in assisting out-of-school young children and helping them with therapeutic lessons.
You see most of them are not comfortable with the whole set-up.
But with me I make it such a way that it is a relaxed environment and they are able to open up about whatever it is that could be troubling them.
I get some of my ideas from them too. Shh! Don’t tell them though!
Q. And finally Thank God It’s Friday, what will you be up to?
A. Actually I had not thought about it until now.
I guess I will be looking forward to buying The Voice.