December 16, 2012

The Constitutional Court and the Kids

I was invited last week by the director of the Constitutional Education Programme, Paula Rainha, who found me through Urban Sketchers, to come and draw with a group of children from Hillbrow at the beautiful Constitutional Court. Previously the notorious Old Fort Prison Complex, it was a place of fear, misery and loathing in the years before our democratic changes. Unfortunately I saw the email too late to attend every afternoon of 'Kidsweek', but joined the oldest group of 12-15 year olds on Friday.
I did the above sketch of the front of the court last year on a visit with a friend. Constitutional Hill has been transformed into a deeply symbolic place. Parts of its dark past are preserved as reminders of when many activists, including Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Walter Sisulu were detained and persecuted here. The Court itself has been beautifully designed and built as an uplifting new space. Everything from the lettering on the facade, the angled pillars and wire chandeliers inside, the large transparent windows, to the bricks carefully dismantled from prison cells and reformed into the walls of the Court, have significance and symbolism. Even the doors, light fittings, sun screens and security gates have been designed by artists, and it is filled with artwork mostly donated by South African artists - from the very famous like William Kentridge and Marlene Dumas to humble street and rural craftsmen and women - mainly due to the efforts of retired Judge Albie Sachs.  
The kids first sat in the courtroom and asked and answered questions about about our constitution, human rights, and the history and significance of the buildings
They then separated into smaller groups around and outside the building and were given clipboards with paper, pencils, pastels and crayons.
I sat with a group who were drawing portraits of previous and current court judges from a wall of photographs, and sketched them drawing. The level of concentration was high from all of us and the afternoon flew past. What a lovely opportunity. And I met a group of young student volunteers who were helping, from nearby universities and art schools - who are keen to come and do some urban sketching and Sketchcrawls! Thanks to Paula for asking me along!


Marina Grechanik said...

what a wonderful a activity - looks like you had a lot of fun! I love your sketches of children especially!

kumi matsukawa said...

Love those kids' facial expression, so concentrating in drawing.

Murray Dewhurst said...

Great sketches of what seems like a really important place for learning and understanding! Great the kids are sketching there too, it definitely helps memory in my experience.

Cathy Gatland said...

Thanks Marina, Kumi and Murray, it's a great and welcoming place to visit - just hope its ideals continue into the future!