Souvenir, a solo exhibition by Stephané Edith Conradie
Souvenir, a solo exhibition by Stephané Edith Conradie opened on Saturday, 5 November, at Whatiftheworld gallery in Cape Town.
The exhibition takes its name from the souvenir; collected objects that store memories of distant places, events and creolised identities, which often form the base of interior decorating in South African households. On mantel pieces, in cabinets, on pedestals and stored away in boxes, souvenirs remind their owners and visitors to the home of significant and relatively rare experiences in an ‘elsewhere’ suspended from the routines of everyday life.
At home the objects pay homage to ancestral journeys; the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the tour through the Holy Land, a cruise to a tropical island or the holiday in Paris. Souvenirs are also embedded in the trope of the colonial paradise when cosmopolitans would visit ‘exotic’ capillary lands. Motifs of palm trees, threatening animals and ships, embossed images of modern construction works, and the replicated regalia of ‘tribal’ and ‘oriental’ others, returned to the metropole as trophies of tamed remoteness; mementoes of conquest.
Conradie reflects on and reworks these tropes and trajectories represented by this common and underappreciated genre of objects. Usually thought of as banal, cheap and sentimental in aesthetic character, bought at tourist stalls as cheerful mass-produced duplicates, souvenirs are the essence of kitsch. But Conradie uses souvenirs to mould them into ornate assemblages, which are difficult to place.
They do not only represent distant, sacred and exotic ‘elsewheres’; but simultaneously ground the people who possess them into a thoroughly localised home and place.
The exhibition is on show until 3 December.
This text draws on Brandaan Huigen’s text published here: https://www.whatiftheworld.com/exhibition/souvenir/