KEITH DIETRICH
Plant Living Near the Mountain cover

SUPPOSED TO BE A PLANT LIVING NEAR A MOUNTAIN

The main focus of the exhibition and book Der Mond als Schuh / The moon as Shoe was 229 drawings and watercolours (the majority published here for the first time) from a collection of over 470 images made between 1875 and 1881 by the six San informants/artists, Diä!kwain, /Han=/ kass'o, !Nanni, Tamme and /Uma, Da, under the supervision of Dr Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd. These drawings and watercolours, which are annotated with the artist's explanations, served to document the languages and cultures of the San. The six San men told Bleek and Lloyd about their lives and environments, mediated by their drawings and watercolours, plants, animals, mountains, everyday actions, maps and extraordinary events being among the most important motifs.

Apart from the catalogue of the 229 watercolours and drawings, the book comprises articles on San ethnography by Megan Biesele, Elias Canetti, Janette Deacon, Mathias G. Guenther, Roger L. Hewitt and Miklós Szalay, all of whom used the material collected by Bleek and Lloyd. The book and exhibition also include interventions by Frédéric Bruly Bouabré and Keith Dietrich, commissioned as responses to the San drawings and watercolours. The work Vermutlich eine in Gebirgsnähe wachsende Pflanze / Supposed to be a plant living near the mountain was informed by plants and artifacts used by or known to the San, some of which were referenced from the drawings and watercolours of the six San artists. My response to the San drawings and watercolours involved documentary processes similar to those used by nineteenth century colonial traveller-artists whose mission was to systematise the `wild and formless worlds' of indigenous Africans by representing these worlds through the privatised form of picturing.

SELECTED EXHIBITION WORKS