Pretoria artists’ collective unmask effects of COVID-19

By Valerie Boje Time of article published Aug 14, 2020

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Val Boje

A GROUP of 40 Pretoria artists has launched a virtual art exhibition titled Mask on! Mask off! Mask on!

The idea for the project came during lockdown level 5, explained co-ordinator Jahni Wasserfall. She said she was talking to another artist at the end of April and they felt the need to collaborate with fellow artists to create awareness for the necessity of wearing a cloth mask, but also to hold up a mirror to society and the difficult time it was going through.

The brief was: “2020 – the ‘year of the Mask’, love it, hate it, believe in it, or not – (it’s) a reality we are stuck with in this moment of time ... your opportunity to protest, comment or alternatively beautify this obtrusive object that is so ‘in (or on!) your face’!”.

City artist Retha Buitendach made a series of animal masks which are on show at Johann van Heerden’s Art Gallery in Garsfontein, Pretoria.

The basis for the artwork was a simple white cloth mask made from a template which was published in the Pretoria News, and the outcome has been a huge diversity in the artists’ interpretation of the theme.

From beautifying, to creating alternatives and commenting on serious social issues such as #ICan'tBreathe, the masks represent various media – from ink and paint on cloth to glass, wire and copper, with embellishments in the form of embroidery, beadwork and lace.

Not all the masks can be worn: rather, they are innovative and creative statements, said Wasserfall.

The virtual art exhibition can be viewed as a video on or on Facebook: and Wasserfall is looking for a sponsor for a print exhibit.

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