Young artist brings gang reality to Leeuwenhof

Artists Leethan Jacobs, 21, from Kewtown, and Léshaan Moses, 20, from New Woodlands.

A New Woodlands artist is thrilled that one of her pieces, Dodging Bullets, a depiction of gang initiation is on display at Leeuwenhof in Cape Town.

“It is wonderful to have my work exhibited. This is my first time and a big opportunity for me,” said Léshaan Moses, 20.

Various emerging artists have been commissioned to have their work displayed in the original slave quarters of the 18 century estate, where Premier Alan Winde and his wife, Tracey, live during his political term of office.

Saturday night saw the official launch of the Leeuwenhof Slave Quarters Remembrance Gallery, which stretches out on the grounds of the estate, occupying the former slave quarters, the Bo-Tuin Huys and the garden in between.

Léshaan said her work, done in acrylic paint, pencil and pen, showed her lived reality of living in fear.

“It reflects emotionally how I feel. What I experience in my community – fear – to step out of my door and fear of being robbed, stabbed or shot, something is going to happen to us.”

In the blurb below her work, historian Joline Young, who curated the Legacy of Slavery exhibition, writes that racial segregation of communities followed a master plan devised by the apartheid government.

“The plan was to relocate people from urban areas in Cape Town to high-density industrial type buildings on the Cape Flats and develop what was described as a ’future coloured city’.

“The greatest casualties of the forced removals were the youth. Don Pinnock describes the impact of forced removals on young people, saying that, ’Poverty and apartheid’s massive social engineering created stresses to which gangs were a teenage response.’”

Ms Young notes that while Leshaan’s artwork depicts the violence of gang initiation, many young people are finding a positive alternative to gangsterism through dance, music and art thanks to the Heal the Hood Project started by Emile Jansen in 1988.

Mr Winde said that when he and Tracy had moved into Leeuwenhof they had learnt of the history of the buildings, including the old slave quarters. Reflecting on the “horror of slavery that taints our country’s past” they had decided to do something about it.

“This remembrance gallery is the result of the process that followed, and I would like to thank all involved for helping give a voice to those who were denied the most basic human rights all those years ago,” said Mr Winde.

The gallery will have three components. The first is an exhibition on the history of slavery, focussing on the enslaved people who lived and worked on the estate. It also includes a list of names of people who were enslaved at the estate.

The second is the art exhibition, where the social, cultural and economic legacies of slavery will be explored through art. Some of the works are from the permanent collection of the Cape Town Museum.

The third element is a rotating exhibition of art for sale, curated by the Association for Visual Arts (AVA). The submitted work does not necessarily reflect slavery although the artist may have had a connection with the history of slavery at the Cape. Saturday night’s exhibition is the first of a series of five exhibitions planned until March next year.

The gallery will be open to the public every first Saturday of the month, from 10am until 2pm, and by appointment.

Guided tours of both the historical exhibition and the rotating art exhibition will also then be available. These tours are coordinated by AVA and the Cape Town Museum.