Johannesburg (ZA)

Michelle Monareng

* 1991 in Johannesburg, South Africa

lives and works in Johannesburg

Michelle Monareng is currently studying fine art in the Master’s program of the University of Witwatersrand. For her graduation work, she received the prize for the best student in the field of fine art.

Landscape as a place of remembrance is the crucial theme of Monareng’s work, which focuses on examining her grandfather’s archive. His farm, along with those of all other families in the village of Heidelberg near Johannesburg, had been dispossessed by the apartheid regime and given to the Berlin Missionary Society. The family was expelled from its land. Monareng works with documents of this expulsion and the lifelong attempt of her grandfather to reclaim the land after the end of apartheid.



Video (Colour), Sound, 2:23 min, Photo prints

“Memories are central aspects of Identity formation, but silences and forgetting of past events are also fundamental. Silences around past events are difficult to interpret because they constitute an absence in the stories that people tell.”- Sean Feld

Since 2012 Michelle Monareng has been working with the archive of her grandfather, in which he collected and recorded the history of the expulsion of the inhabitants of Rietspruit No. 417 I.R., a farm in Heidelberg southeast of Johannesburg, in 1965. The archive consists of memoranda, photos and chronicles, old VHS and audio cassettes of gatherings and meetings, as historical documents of the struggle to reclaim this area. Monareng is interested in how voids in the archives can be revealed by reversing historical interpretations. In her video work, she follows the sensed trails in the landscape and asks how perceptions and memories can be condensed to a narrative. She began looking for voids in the landscape and the archive. The Berlin Missionary Society and the apartheid government had tried to eradicate all traces of the community. Timelines and memoranda become landscapes of silence.

The Natives Land Act (Act No. 27/1913) passed in 1913, which regulated the division of the available land of South Africa’s white minority, was one of the pivotal tools to violently enforce apartheid in South Africa. One hundred years ago, it laid the foundation for the systematic disfranchisement and economic deprivation of the black population. The consequences can be felt until today.