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Current Exhibition

A Square Meal


An exhibition of new work by senior Fine Art students from the Department of Visual Arts (SU) in response to archival encounters with food and history


Curated by Amy Rommelspacher and Kathryn Smith 


Featuring Hannah Davis, Seth Flaum, Roe Jones, Max Kuijers, Rebekah Pringle, Ekta Ramgobin, Kajal Ranchhod, Vikisha Ranchod, Ron Sauerman, Karinsa Schutte, Bianca Süssman and Eduard van Wyk.


Opening 10 April 2024 at 17h30 for 18h00

Please consider bringing along a non-perishable food item to add to a collaborative social sculpture that will accumulate during the exhibition’s run, aimed at relieving food insecurity on campus.

In partnership with the #Move4Food initiative

A Square Meal is a creative research initiative conceived by historian and archivist Dr Amy Rommelspacher in 2022 and realised in collaboration with interdisciplinary artist and curator Dr Kathryn Smith and a group of her students in a teaching and learning context. The 3rd year Fine Art curriculum includes a studio practice intensive led by Smith, in which students are introduced to archives as inspiration and source material for the development of new art, exploring museological and curatorial modes of collection, interpretation, conservation and display.


In 2023, students were introduced to archival material about food in Southern African history via the Dutch Reformed Church Archives. References to food in the archives remind us that everyone eats, and those who are now ‘buried in the archive’ once walked the earth. What these ‘others’ consumed and their beliefs about world may now seem foreign or challenging to us, but just like them we get hungry, we eat, we live, and we try to find community.


One individual, for instance, refers to having ‘a square meal of venison and sweet potatoes’ as he travelled through the southern parts of pre-colonial Zimbabwe (then Mashonaland) by ox wagon in the 1890s. This quote inspired the title of our collaborative project, and the sweet potato also features as a tool for art-making in this exhibition. This plant, brought to Africa in the 1600s as a result of the Columbian exchange (the process named for Christopher Columbus, by which people, commodities and diseases crossed the Atlantic in both directions), embodies the complexity of food history.


Food history can provide insights into commodities, social and transport networks, environments, economies, rituals, and identity, but it is a neglected field in Africa. Food is temporal and, in many ways, temporary. Food has also been a persistent presence in art history – think of the sixteenth century fruit and vegetable portraits of Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, or the Dutch ‘still life’ genre of the seventeenth century – and in experimental contemporary art, including Fluxus artist Alison Knowles’s instructional performance piece ‘Make a Salad’ (1962) or Rirkrit Tiravanija’s landmark gesture ‘Untitled (Free)’ (1992), where the artist converted an art gallery into a kitchen and served rice and Thai curry to visitors. This work inspired Nicolas Bourriaud’s theory of ‘relational aesthetics’, which transformed our understanding of the participatory and performative potential of art in the 1990s, and which we continue to see in artistic practice today. Closer to home, artist Zayaan Khan’s ‘Reclaim the Pantry’ (2020) presented at the Rupert Gallery embodies her practice of food-based activism, and UK-based sisters and artists Katy and Rebecca Beinart’s expansive project ‘Origination’, which in 2009 filled the main gallery of what is now GUS with salt harvested from a salt pan in Malmesbury once owned by their great-grand parents, are important co-ordinates for our work.


Combining art and the archives presents an exciting avenue with which to present and preserve food history, of indigenous peoples and those travelling into different parts of Southern Africa at the time. The artists’ interpretations of these sources provide the chance to reflect on the role of food in society, culture, family, and individual lives today. The result is a group of twelve new mixed media (and some potentially edible) works in which conceptual and material experimentation offers new perspectives on voices and ideas from the past, as well as contemporary reflections on food, its politics, and its pleasures.


Alignment with SU’s #Move4Food appeal


Visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to bring a donation of a non-perishable food item, which will contribute to a social sculpture in the gallery, conceived by Kathryn Smith. Donations will be placed in a demarcated area of one square metre, and stacked as high as possible during the exhibition's run. At the conclusion of the exhibition, these items will be donated to the #Move4Food initiative.


Cash donations are also welcome; please request a receipt from gallery staff.


Alternatively, visitors can contribute to Stellenbosch University’s Development and Alumni Relations online donation platform here. When donating, click 'BridgeTheGap' and select '#Move4Food' in the drop-down menu.



More about the #Move4Food campaign


Stellenbosch University's #Move4Food initiative was launched in August 2018 and seeks to find sustainable solutions to ensure food security for all our students. This initiative forms part of the University's Bridge the Gap Annual Fund, a fundraising campaign that invites alumni, the student community, staff, parents, and friends of the University to support our students in overcoming the obstacles on their path to success. The bleak reality is that a lack of access to affordable and nutritious food on South African campuses is rife and Stellenbosch University is no exception. The essence of #Move4Food is to work towards managing and ending student hunger on our campuses.

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