A unique art experience at Oliewenhuis

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Maricelle Botha

Art lovers recently had the rare opportunity to experience a part of Oliewenhuis Art Museum’s permanent art collection in a way they have never experienced it before. Julius Masebuko and Esté Kemp from the Society of the Blind, presented an exclusive guided tour of Willem Boshoff’s well-known artwork, Blind Alphabet A.
The Blind Alphabet project originated in 1990 and consists of 94 wire mesh boxes, each containing a unique wooden sculpture. An interpretation of the wooden sculpture, inscribed with text in Braille, is to be found on the lid of each box. According to Yolanda Els, education officer at Oliewenhuis, Boshoff’s intention with the Blind Alphabet series is to deliberately handicap sighted spectators, by restricting them from seeing or touching the sculpture inside. “The Braille text, which is mostly unfamiliar to sighted people, disadvantages the viewer even more. The role of the sighted spectator is thus being changed through experiencing the Blind Alphabet, only a blind viewer is able to ‘see’, interpret and perceive the work.”
Els says that because of the magnitude of the artwork the museum decided to bring it under the attention of the public again and thought that this would be the ideal way of doing it. “We often do art walkabouts in the museum and this was a walkabout lead by a blind person. I think this is quite extraordinary.”
Kemp added that this was a great opportunity to try and explain what it is like to be blind. “It was very interesting to me that we had the opportunity to read stuff to you that you can’t read, because it is always the other way around.” She says when they go to the zoo others have to explain to her what they are seeing now the roles has changed. “It is wonderful that Willem Boshoff took the time to create an art project like this. It contains very valuable information in Braille.”