‘Intonjane’ at the heart of lecturer’s Grahamstown exhibition

JULY 7, 2015

The sacred Xhosa ritual Intonjane, aimed at preparing young girls for womanhood, has found great expression at this year’s Grahamstown National Arts Festival through the works of a WSU ceramist.

‘The Bulges: African girl’s natural endowments’ is a carefully considered title for a 52-piece ceramic sculpting collection created by WSU fine art lab assistant and lecturer Siziwe Sotewu.

Sotewu meticulously deconstructs the diverse strata of Intonjane in three stages; childhood, entitled “Flowers at school”; girlhood, entitled “Ukutshila” and womanhood, under the title “The bulges”.

“My exhibition focuses on the developmental stages of a girl from infant right through the events leading up to the Intonjane custom up to umgidi (graduation ceremony). They express the stages of growing up, the three different preliminal, liminal and post-liminal stages of Intonjane rite of passage,” says Sotewu.

She says the work is a visually artistic social commentary on the moral decay that continues to “eat away at the very core of womanhood” amongst the current generation.

There’s nothing subtle about the feminist ideology the work seeks to depict – not even the somewhat restrained undertones of general issues like education fail to curb the enthusiasm with which this theme has been presented.

“The moral degeneration of our young woman has reached crisis level and this is an issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. Intonjane was and still is one of those very important mechanisms we as Xhosa people use to teach our girls a good moral and values system, self-respect and self-worth,” says Sotewu.

The work forms part of the Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture visual art exhibition and is comfortably nestled at the Grahamstown Albany Art History Museum.

The collection was developed in 2012 and as the practical aspect of her thesis for her Master’s degree in Visual Arts at UNISA.

"After the department saw my submission, they were very impressed and wasted no time in contacting me to form part of their exhibition for this year’s festival,” says Sotewu.

Although Sotewu has showcased her work a number of times in the past, this year signalled the first time she showcases her own exhibition.