At the ongoing Thapong two-week members’ Exhibition Time Out stumbled upon renowned member Ivy Radipodi-Mpitjane’s sculpture entitled, “Mashi ke phepa ke tswa thobeng, selabe se tla le mo tsaya kgamelo”. Loosely translated, this means “the milk is pure when it comes from the teat, any impurities come from the one who brings the bucket.” The sculp- ture depicts a cow’s 4 teats in the shape of male penises. The art-work challenges misconceptions about male circumcision which is currently the Government’s major prevention focus in the fight against HIV.
“My work showcasing at Thapong is the response gathered from the public’s comments about the male circumcision campaign. Even though it is safe, the challenge is that one still needs to reinforce the protection by gear- ing up with both the male and fe- male condoms,” she said.
Explaining the concept behind the artwork Mpitjane said the cow’s teats represent the male organ in a milking device to extract milk in order to nurture the nation. The milking device symbolizes the circumcision surgery equipment and the hollowed mirrors represent the theatre room. The teats are dressed up in condoms to emphasize the notion of double protection against HIV/ AIDS. The surgical gloves signify the process of the medical procedure carried out and the heavy-duty gloves are a symbol of hardships and pains encountered. The clean white bowl symbolizes the female counterpart whilst the clear silicon is a symbol of healthy milk that is being milked from the cow. The cow is a symbol of Mother Nature and how society is nurtured through the milk and beef as portrayed in our setswana cultural beliefs.
The 38-year-old Molepolole native joined Thapong in 1996 when she started her teaching profession and is one of the few great women artists working in a male dominated field, designing artwork that communicates social issues. “My artworks are mainly installations and soft sculptures with which I question and address issues related to HIV/ AIDS. I also engage out of school youths by using art as an advocacy tool to convey messages on the HIV/AIDS scourge, outreach programmes through Thapong as well as interrogating the nation on how they perceive such issues and at the same time relay a message put forth through Government initiatives by the Ministry of Health.”
She continued, “My otherworks also question the notion of social ills and social responsibility on political and economic phenomena. I also touch on female issues and like my previous body of works titled Woman as her own vessel. The works interrogate misconceptions about women and the hardships they go through like infertility, single parenting, domestic violence and sexual harassment but they still form the strongest portion of mankind in the society,” she said. The exceptional features and concept of the sculpture make it stand out from the conventional paint on canvas artworks. Speaking to Time Out, the coordinator of Thapong, Reginald Bakwena said the displayed artworks reflect the innovative thinking which inspire and motivate the viewer to create sensible meanings from the creations. He also highlighted the fact that the exhibition was different from the past exhibitions because they registered new members and that there was an improvement in the quality of the members’ artwork.