Childhood reclaimed in stellar exhibition

By Dave Mann

Saying goodbye to your childhood is never an easy process. Memories fade, stories lose their shine, and the magic that surrounded so much of your adventures slowly leaks out into the adult world. For Masters Fine Art student, Minke Wasserman, the childhood is never lost, but simply accessed differently as time passes.

Taking place at the Side Stage of the 1820 Setter’s Monument, Wasserman opened up her whimsical childhood memories to audiences in an exhibition entitled ‘Becoming(s)’.  Mixing sourced materials and her own creations, Wasserman’s exhibition paid tribute to the magical realm of her childhood in Knysna where mystical, hybrid creatures roamed her imagination and took her on wild journeys.

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“It all started off looking through family photos and remembering these strange takes on folktale creatures that we came up with as a family” said Wasserman. “My dad always tried to find the wonderful in the ordinary and it really just inspired this whole thing.”

These fairy tale creatures formed the menagerie-like exhibition, with otherworldly octopi sprawled out on the grass, childhood teddy bears with disfigured and disproportioned bodies, two headed reindeer, and the main attraction, a two metre tall ‘bunny man’ which loomed over the audience, eerily begging you closer.

“I really tried to make these stories a bit more edgy and crude, because it’s always these innocent, supposedly happy little fairy tales that influence your childhood and then all of a sudden it just shatters. You’re not sure how or why, but something just disillusions you.”

Plastic frogs with Barbie doll arms, marshmallow ‘tandemuisies’ hidden in weavers’ nests, and eyeless teddy bears echo her statement as they sit on the low-lit expanse of grass that the exhibition houses itself on.

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What is presented isn’t simply a nostalgic, macabre account of an artist’s younger years, but a liminal space which puts forth the ideas of childhood and adulthood, good and bad, wonderment and disillusion. The bunny man for example stands tall with the aggressive upper body of a male, the head of a rabbit, and the disturbingly diminutive arms of a child, pieced together by Wasserman’s childlike fascination with the Easter Bunny.

“I still had a stubborn belief in the Easter Bunny because I’m obsessed with rabbits and I refused to admit that he didn’t exist for much longer than I’d like to say. I still have Easter egg hunts to this day even if it’s just me” says Wasserman.

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As audience members explore the shadowy, fairy tale land of Wasserman’s retrospective childhood imagination, she looks on fondly before smoothing out a corner of the grass patch. “I’m still very much a kid at heart. I still talk to little imaginary creatures and my own creations and go on little adventures by myself. I grew up physically, but never in my heart. I just see things differently now.”

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