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Strangers in a strange ginger land

Beware, die rooi gevaar has taken over – at least for one evening.

At an exhibition in Joburg on a recent Thursday, about 70 redheads or “gingers”, were part of a piece of performance art organised by Anthea Pokroy.

Artist Anthea Pokroy, front, stands with a group of redheads she secretly organised to attend an exhibition in Newtown. Picture: Brendan Roane. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Pokroy is an artist who takes photographs of natural gingers and documents them on her website, icollectgingers .com.

She invited all the redheads she has documented to attend a contemporary art exhibition in Newtown, but told them to keep their invitations secret, and to act as normal spectators, so as to surprise the other members of the audience.

According to National Geographic, redheads make up only about two percent of the world’s population, something Pokroy wanted to explore as part of her performance.

With about 300 people in attendance, almost a quarter of the people were ginger-haired, bringing stares and hushed questions about what was happening from those who did not know that it had been planned.

“I wanted (the non-gingers) to feel weird and strange, with this abnormal amount of this group around,” said Pokroy.

Eventually the plan was revealed and the gingers gathered to have a group picture taken.

She said the performance piece follows from the work she has done on her website, looking at how people classify groups of people based on physical attributes, like hair or skin colour.

The gingers also received a card with their picture and descriptions of their hair, skin and eye colours.

“The card references histories of classification, like the dompas” said Pokroy, “but, rather than a symbol of suppression, this is a symbol of pride.

“Can I create a race based on a common physical feature? I think I can,” said Pokroy, who aims to take pictures of 500 redheads and has 311 at the moment.

Annually, thousands of gingers attend Roodharigendag (red hair day) in Breda, in the Netherlands, in early September.

Last year it was estimated that 4 000 natural redheads from 50 countries attended the festival, which celebrates the fiery hair colour. - The Star

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