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Songs From The Earth

Item date(s): 2009

Mxolisi Nyezwa  - (poems by)
Malcolm Christian  - (design by)
Bev Hourquebie  - (design by)
Vusi Zwane  - (illustrations by)
Simphiwe Cebekhulu  - (illustrations by)

Pages: 28pp
Size: 310mm
Collation: Three books in a folder
Binding: Complex - see Notes
Technique: Digital print; Linocut
Language: English
Edition: #12/75

Theme(s): Poetry

Place publication: Balgowan, RSA
Publisher: The Caversham Press
Previous reference GB/16753
Exhibition 2017

Additional notes:
A chemise folding in on itself, holding a long book (297mm) on the left and two smaller books (140mm each) on the right. This is contained in a slipcase and the whole in a wrap-around card folder tied with string.

Reference note:
This limited edition portfolio comprises three simple handmade books; two accordion-folds and a pamphlet stitched anthology of poems. The books, designed text, and hand-printed images - are created to be held, read, and looked at.

There is also a standard edition.

Songs from the Earth affirms the concept that many artists' books are evidence of creative, collaborative partnerships between artists and master printers. With Songs from the Earth the collaboration is more complex. This project began during a Cultural Dialogue Residency at Caversham in 2009 when writer Mxolisi Nyezwa created a collection of 18 poems. On leaving, he gave me his manuscript and asked me to use the poems in a future project. During 2014 and 2015 Vusi Zwane, our Artist-in-Residence, and his intern Simphiwe Cebekhulu used these poems as inspiration to make a series of black and white screenprinted images on acetate. These words and images were the source for 'Songs from the earth' and completed in 2016. The book design was devised and executed by myself, master printer and director of The Caversham Press in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. The result of this interaction is an artists book - 18 poems in dialogue with visual images, created not as illustrations but as visual responses to the sentiment and rhythm of the poetry.

The book has a back story. The Caversham Press and its commitment to the residency programmes were intrinsic to the activities promoted by the Caversham Centre for Artists and Writers. Songs from the Earth was generated by the final international cultural dialogue residency held in 2009. This residency included two writers and two visual artists, one of each from South Africa and Atlanta Georgia USA.

The residency was hosted a year after the tragic murder of Caversham Programmes Manager, Gabisile Nkosi, at her home in our local community of Lidgetton. Mxolisi Nyezwa was moved by what he knew of Gabi's community work and learnt of her sudden, violent death, and her presence infiltrated the poems he wrote during the residency. When he left Caversham, Mxolisi handed me a manuscript of eighteen poems and asked me to 'do something with them'. I made a number of unsuccessful attempts to create a single book comprised of Mxolisi's poems and images created by the young artists with whom we worked, but in each instance an essential thread connecting content, context and artist was missing.

Only in 2014 when exploring the possibility of separate volumes of text and image was cohesiveness found. As the end of Gabi's life moved Mxolisi to poetic expression, so the final production of Songs from the Earth coincided with the closure of the Caversham Centre for Artists and Writers. The book of poems by a South African writer and images by local intern Simphiwe, and resident visual artist Vusi, echoes the values underpinning Caversham's 17 year mission of collaborative activity. It provides a fitting requiem and token of appreciation for all those who helped make the Centre a place of connection and meaning.

Three books contained in a bound portfolio: book 1 is a pamphlet stitch anthology of 18 poems, accompanied by two accordion books of 9 images each, inspired by the poetry.

Theme: Visual interpretation of poetry

Exhibition notes:
‘Booknesses: Contemporary South African Artist's Books’. FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg. Curated by David Paton and Eugene Hon. 24 March - 5 May 2017

Masabelaneni: The Book Arts Archive of The Caversham Press and Centre for Artists and Writers, JGCBA, Johannesburg. 5 September – 14 December 2023.

Keywords: Caversham Centre for Artists and Writers

Ref: GB/30702

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