Artist Robyn Kater's inspiration ... Johannesburg and those who live in it

If there are ways to describe multifaceted artist Robyn Kater, then it’s probably best to start with bold.

Kater is intensely stimulated by the city of Johannesburg and the people that inhabit it. Her inspiration, Johannesburg, has led her to produce powerful work titled, Toxic Playground.

She interprets her home city, Johannesburg as the captivating and opulent space that has significantly induced her personal identity as well as her artwork.

Kater portrays Toxic Playground as a mixed media installation, made up of photography, video and found objects through - through which she explores how the Johannesburg mine dumps become palimpsests of personal memory and toxicity.

The installation consists of 100kg of sand, collected over three months from the Riverlea mine dump – which has great significance and sentiment to Kater who grew up in the community.

The 23-year-old recently graduated from Wits University with a degree in Fine Art, and says Toxic Playground is symbolic of the socio-economic and environmental issues facing the residents of Riverlea.

The work addresses the community’s concerns, she explains. This is because the city’s mine dumps have been normalised to be included in the community’s everyday landscape despite being toxic.

Kater’s art asks: “What should be done with remnants of the city’s division post-conflict, post-apartheid state? What influence do memory and remembrance of these places have on the transformation of the city’s spatial morphology (formation), identity and flows of everyday urban life?”

In her work, Kater tries to detect the connection between history, heritage, identity, displacement, and space - movingly expressing how she is “interested in the city as a living organism and how the tangible and intangible fragments meet and overlap to form a lived experience”.

She understands the city to be a complex living organism in which some areas act as relics of personal memory and of an overlying history.

Her distinctive artwork exemplifies the intense relationship Johannesburg as a city presents between space and identity.

Images from 'Toxic Playground' by Robyn Kater


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