the incident – an installation at Modern Art, Oxford the incident – an installation at Modern Art, Oxford the incident – an installation at Modern Art, Oxford the incident – an installation at Modern Art, Oxford

the incident


The Incident was selected for Obsessions, Modern Art Oxford, March 2008.

4th April 2006 Krugersdorp, South Africa

"I am sitting at a desk in a small room in the Krugersdorp Police Station. On the desk is a typewriter. Next to it is a blue cardboard folder with an incident number written on it. Around the room are messy piles of the same blue cardboard folders stuffed with papers. The typewriter clatters through the details I am providing of the violent attack on my mom and dad the night before. I hear the sound of typewriters in other rooms …"

In April 2006 I took my nine-week-old baby daughter home to South Africa to introduce her to my family. My mom and dad live on a farm, west of Johannesburg, and were delighted to have their tiny granddaughter in their home; fussing over her the way loving grandparents do.

At midnight on our second night on the farm, we were all asleep when four men smashed their way into my parents' bedroom using a metal fence post and wheel spanner and set about a violent and bloody attack on them. It was the start of a terrifying ordeal for all of us.

Through countless small miracles we all survived what we have come to call the incident.

When I returned to Brookes in January 2007 at the end of my maternity leave I still carried the trauma of the Incident with me. With the guidance of Richard Layzell I used the creative strategies of the Transformations module as a healing process. The resulting work helped me come to terms with the worst thing that has happened to me. It also placed a highly personal and emotive event within the socio-political context of South Africa.

A common Western perception of South Africa since the end of Apartheid is one of a rainbow nation. In reality it is a society that is literally being shaped by everyday violence irrespective of race. People have no faith in the overwhelmed and failing police force and contempt for the corrupt justice system. My story is one of thousands.

The work I exhibited at MAO had at its centre a script that was the factual account of my experience of the incident. I constructed a simple theatrical set of a desk and chair surrounded by piles of blue folders – like the police folder that contained the details of the incident. These folders were stuffed with pages of the statistics that shape South African politics and society. The audience were invited, as participants of the work, to sit at the desk and read the script while the sound of typing surrounded them. The set was lit in such a way so as to contain it but also created a sense of theatre.

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