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  • Healing instruments

    “I invited Edmund February to the Kirby collection to view the instruments and learn his thoughts on them from a botanical perspective. February identified the dancing rattles as being made of the seed pods of Oncoba spinosa (Venda: mutuzwa) and the seed pod of Adansonia digitata (Venda: muvhuyu). The wood of the iodophone was, however, unrecognisable as a result of its handling. February also contacted colleagues in the Department of Zoology and the School of Mathematical & Natural Sciences at the University of Venda, who connected me to a Venda diviner, Muanalo Dyer, who uses similar baobab rattles (and other materials from that tree) in her healing practices. This interdisciplinary engagement showed that these instruments, supposedly frozen in their early 20th century understanding of being on the brink of extinction, remained very much functional in the present” (Liebenberg 2021: 271).
  • Isigubu through Gqom

    "In 2018, the Zulu drum alleged to have been played during the 1906 Bambatha rebellion against British rule and unfair taxation in the colony of Natal (discussed by Nixon) became the focus of Amogelang Maledu’s Honours research project. In ‘Isigubu through gqom: The sound of defiance and Black joy’, Maledu (who has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Visual Culture) used the drum’s history of colonial resistance and contextualised it through the contemporary musical genre of gqom, showing music as both an act and celebration of joy and freedom and of defiance against the limitations of township life. Through her ‘speculative and imagined interconnectedness’ of the isigubu and gqom, Maledu appropriated the limited information available about the former and expanded it by reinventing new historical pathways that reframed colonial narrations and aesthetics (Maledu 2018: 29–30). Her curation broke the silence of the Kirby instruments and liberated the isigubu from its ethnomusicological framework through a juxtaposition that spoke back to history and the contemporary moment. In addition, a website provides a framework for historicising gqom and encouraged the growth of its archive through viewer engagement, also highlighting the speculative and stagnant colonial archive in which the isigubu is situated (Maledu 2018: 29–30)" (Liebenberg 2021: 211 - 212).
  • The Kirby collection of musical instruments

    "Kirby’s choice of an ‘age-old simple classification’ to order the instruments can be correlated with another classification formulated at Wits around the time he was collecting. The Department of Bantu Studies was established in the 1920s at roughly the same time as the Music Department. Kirby’s use of the phrase ‘native races’, which features in the title of his book, resonates with the descriptive subtitle of the Wits journal connected to research in this department: Bantu Studies: A Journal Devoted to the Scientific Study of Bantu, Hottentot, and Bushman (Nixon 2013: xii). The homogenising act of categorising all diverse indigenous South African groups into three general categories seems to echo Kirby’s taxonomic imposition on the diverse instruments he collected on his trips and that continues to feature as the ordering principle of this collection" (Liebenberg 2021: 136).
  • Rattles in the Kirby collection

    A drawer of rattles in the South African College of Music's Kirby collection: "The instruments are now grouped in different cabinets according to the taxonomy set out by Kirby in his book. In the preface to the second edition (1964), Kirby shares some of his considerations when deciding how to group the instruments, writing that he had to decide ‘whether to arrange his material tribally, or to deal with each type of musical instrument separately from the technological and historical points of view, allowing the tribal aspects to emerge incidentally’ (Kirby 1964: xi). Kirby chose the second alternative, stating that his chief reason was that he wanted the work to be, as far as possible, ‘a complete and comparative study of one particular aspect of the life of our aborigines’ (1964: xi). His second consideration was to find the most suitable manner for classifying the instruments, for which he defaulted to the ‘age-old simple classification of musical instruments into three main groups of percussion, wind and strings’ (1964: xi) – a Western system for the classification of instruments and the principles on which they were based. The chapters in his book and the displays in the room are thus grouped into three categories: percussion – ‘rattles and clappers’, ‘drums’, ‘xylophones and sansas’ and ‘bull-roarers and spinning-disks’; wind instruments – ‘horns and trumpets’, ‘whistles, flutes, and vibrating reeds’ and ‘reed flute ensembles’; and stringed instruments – ‘stringed instruments’ and ‘Bushmen and Hottentot violins and the ramkie’. Kirby encountered one taxonomic anomaly when employing this system: the ‘gora’, an instrument both wind and string, which he termed ‘a stringed-wind instrument’" (Liebenberg 2021: 135).
  • About Ed Ricketts

    "Just about dusk one day in April 1948 Ed Ricketts stopped work in the laboratory in Cannery Row. He covered his instruments and put away his papers and filing cards. He rolled down the sleeves of his wool shirt and put on the brown coat which was slightly small for him and frayed at the elbows. He wanted a steak for dinner and he knew just the market in New Monterey where he could get a fine one, well hung and tender. He went out into the street that is officially named Ocean View Avenue and is known as Cannery Row. His old car stood at the gutter, a beat-up sedan. The car was tricky and hard to start. He needed a new one but could not afford it at the expense of other things. Ed tinkered away at the primer until the ancient rusty motor coughed and broke into a bronchial chatter which indicated that it was running. Ed meshed the jagged gears and moved away up the street. He turned up the hill where the road crosses the Southern Pacific Railways track. It was almost dark, or rather that kind of mixed light and dark which makes it very difficult to see. Just before the crossing the road takes a sharp climb. Ed shifted to second gear, the noisiest gear, to get up the hill. The sound of his motor and gears blotted out every other sound. A corrugated iron warehouse was on his left, obscuring any sight of the right of way. The Del Monte Express, the evening train from San Francisco, slipped around from behind the warehouse and crashed into the old car. The cow-catcher buckled in the side of the automobile and pushed and ground and mangled it a hundred yards up the track before the train stopped" (Steinbeck 1951: 279). ​After Ricketts' death in 1948, Steinbeck dropped the species catalogue from the earlier 'The Sea of Cortez' and republished it with a eulogy to his friend added as an afterword.
  • Resonance (Greenblatt)

    In 'Resonance and Wonder' Greenblatt discusses ‘resonant’ moments in regards to museum displays as “those in which the supposedly contextual objects take on a life of their own and make a claim that rivals that of the object that is formally privileged. A table, a chair, a map – often seemingly placed only to provide a decorative setting for a grand work – become oddly expressive, significant not as a background but as compelling representational practices in themselves. These practices may in turn impinge on the grand work, so that we begin to glimpse a kind of circulation: the cultural practice and social energy implicit in mapmaking is drawn into the aesthetic orbit of a painting, which has itself enabled us to register some of the representational significance of the map” (1991: 22- 23). For him a resonant exhibition often “pulls the viewer away from the celebration of isolated objects and toward a series of implied, only half-visible relationships and questions” (1991: 23).
  • Resonance

    Image from page 137 of the 'Curiosity CLXXV' catalogue, describing resonance and its application in MRI technology.
  • Prisoners on a Projecting Platform

    Etching from Giovanni Battista Piranesi's 'Carceri d'invenzione (Imaginary Prisons)' ca. 1749–50
  • The Pier with Chains

    Etching from Giovanni Battista Piranesi's 'Carceri d'invenzione (Imaginary Prisons)' ca. 1749–50
  • The Drawbridge

    Etching from Giovanni Battista Piranesi's 'Carceri d'invenzione (Imaginary Prisons)' ca. 1749-50
  • Devils Bridge sketched by Lister

    'Devils Bridge' sketched by Lister on his travels through Europe showing a bridge crossing the Gotthard Pass, northern approach, Switzerland. ​The term 'devil's bridge' is applied to many ancient bridges found primarily in Europe. These were stone or masonry arch bridges and, because they represented a significant technological achievement in ancient architecture, were objects of fascination and stories. The most popular of these featured the Devil, either as the builder of the bridge (relating to the precariousness or impossibility of such a bridge to last or exist in the first place) or as a pact-maker (sharing the necessary knowledge to build the bridge, usually in exchange for the communities souls). The legend attached to the bridge sketched by Lister is of the latter, and was related by Johann Jakob Scheuchzer in 1716. According to Scheuchzer, the people of Uri recruited the Devil for the difficult task of building the bridge. In return for his expertise, the Devil requested the soul of the first thing to pass the bridge. To trick the Devil, the people of Uri sent across a dog by throwing a piece of bread, and the dog was promptly torn to pieces by the Devil. Reference: Scheuchzer, J. , 1747 [1716]. Naturgeschichte des Schweitzerlandes. Vol. 2: 94.
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