Community Punching Bags

  • Posted: May 8, 2012

The “Community Punching Bags” or “CPBs” project is an artwork by Johann van der Schijff in collaboration with art teachers and high school learners from and around Cape Town. Johann is an artist and lecturer at The Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town. The collaborating art teachers and Grade 10 learners are from Livingstone High School (Claremont), Camps Bay High, Heideveld Senior Secondary School, Fish Hoek High, and Isilimela High School (Langa).

The resulting CPBs exhibition opens at the Iziko South African National Gallery Annexe at 17.30 for 18:00 on 23 May and closes on 16 June 2012 at 16.00. The exhibition space will be open daily from 09:00 – 16:00 (weekdays) and 09:00 – 13:00 (Saturdays) during the four weeks of the show. Walkabouts will be conducted at the Annexe (weekdays 10.00 – 16.00, weekends by appointment) and a workshop will be held during Youth Week (date to be confirmed).

Inspired by artwork in which the community plays a central part in its realisation, this project aims to show that issues often not spoken about openly, such as those that deal with violence, “the other”, stereotyping, discrimination, racism, xenophobia and human rights can be addressed in a collaborative and creative way through the making of art.

The overall project consists of five phases: Involving high school art teachers from the greater Cape Town area, Phase 1 consisted of Saturday morning workshop sessions (in 2011) to develop cut-out designs/collages with the art teachers (images follow); In Phase 2 of the project, local leather artisans crafted the cut-out designs/collages into actual punching bags; Phases 3 and 4 replicate Phases 1 and 2, but with the teachers passing their CPBs workshop skills to the schoolchildren. Phase 5 will be a major exhibition that consists of the drawings, paper cut-outs/collages and punch bag sculptures that emanated from the workshops.

The CPBs project involves a broad range of institutional contributorsi. Van der Schijff says “The National Research Foundation, via my own research activities at the University of Cape Town, provided seed funding for the project. Significant funding from the Prins Claus Fundii  in The Netherlands enabled me to roll out the project at the participating schools in Cape Towniii  – the participating schools had responded to an open invitation via The Frank Joubert Art Centre, who also provided the premises for most of the workshops and contributed to workshop facilitation. Iziko Museums of Cape Town’s Education and Public Programmes contributed to the design and facilitation of the workshops as well as leading walkabouts and a workshop during the exhibition”.

The CPBs project is intended to be viewed as an artwork. Johann’s iconography draws on art that relies on viewer participation, chance and the absurd. The project – at its core involving participation from both the makers and the viewers – is therefore an unpredictable process open to chance and serendipity that reveals itself as it unfolds. It is neither a scientific nor a pedagogical exercise, but is a conceptual artwork – it does not aim to provide definite answers to the questions it poses, but remains open to interpretation.

Johann van der Schijff
Cape Town, Monday 5 May 2012


i Collaborators and their roles:

  1. Concept and project manager – Johann van der Schijff, senior lecturer in New Media, Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT
  2. Art teacher facilitator – Liesl Hartman, principal, Frank Joubert Art Centre, WCED
  3. Workshop and exhibition catalogue contributor – Crain Soudien, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Professor in Education Department, UCT
  4. Workshop contributor – Francois Botha, Discrimination and Harassment Office, UCT
  5. Workshop attendees – Art teachers and Grade 10 learners in the greater Cape Town region, WCED
  6. Workshop contributor – Kathy Coates, Art Educator, Education and Public Programmes, Iziko Museums of Cape Town
  7. Workshop contributor – Fabian Hartzenberg, Frank Joubert Art Centre
  8. Studio photographer – Vanessa Cowling, professional photographer and part-time lecturer in photography, Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT
  9. Exhibition catalogue contributor – Andrew Lamprecht, senior lecturer, Discourse of Art, Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT

ii  Prins Claus Fund’s website:

iii  The five participating schools were decided upon because their teachers responded to the open call, sent out via the Frank Joubert Art Centre’s art teacher mailing list, to participate in the project. Although we initially started out with a few more participants, these five teachers remained involved in the project throughout. They are:

  1. Livingstone High School – Shirage Davids
  2. Camps Bay High School – Lauren Schofield
  3. Heideveld Senior Secondary School – Shireen Ahmed
  4. Fish Hoek High School – Debby Saporetti
  5. Isilimela High School – Xoliswa Nkunzi

Because of the logistical complexity of the project as well as available budget, I could not extend it to include more schools.
iv  As such it is inspired by other artworks in which the community plays a central part in its realisation e.g. Ai Weiwei’s Fairytale and David Christo’s Running Fence

Iziko Museums (Iziko) operates 11 national museums, a Planetarium and the newly renovated Social History Centre in Cape Town.  The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections which reflect our diverse African heritage.  Iziko is a public entity of the Department of Art and Culture and non-profit organisation which brings together these museums under a single governance and leadership structure.  The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, as well as unlimited free access to individuals aged 18 and under (excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium).

COMMEMORATIVE DAYS – FREE ENTRANCE (excluding Iziko Planetarium and Castle of Good Hope)

  • Human Rights Day: 21 March
  • Freedom Day: 27 April
  • International Museum Day: 25 May
  • Africa Day: 25 May
  • Youth Day: 16 June
  • National Women’s Day: 9 August
  • Heritage Week: 19 – 25 September
  • National Aids Awareness Day: 1 December
  • Emancipation Day: 1 December
  • Day of Reconciliation: 16 December

For further information please contact:

Johann van der Schijff (UCT) Mobile: 082 330 5335
Tel: 021 480 7116
Email 1:
Email 2:

Kathy Coates (Iziko) Mobile: 082 200 4622
Tel: 021 481 3954

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