Still I Rise: An Exhibition of Photography by South African Students

Image Above: ©South African Student, Thoebelani Majola. Courtesy of ArtWorks for Youth.


On May 18th from 5-8pm an opening reception for the exhibit "Still I Rise" took place at the Packer Collegiate Institute's Front Hall Gallery. In March, a group of high school students from Packer traveled to Port Elizabeth, South Africa to do service work in partnership with a nonprofit called ArtWorks for Youth. The mission of ArtWorks for Youth is to provide free after school visual art instruction, mentoring, and academic support to under-served students in South Africa. Through the powerful medium of photography by both students from the ArtWorks for Youth Program in South Africa, and from the Packer Collegiate Institute, this exhibition explores the emotional aspects of the high school students' trip to South Africa. The following is what they had to say about their experience.

Joe Slovo-23©Packer Student: Paul McLaren, "Outisder" 2015. Courtesy of the artist.


During our time there, we taught after-school classes including dance, photography, painting, and sports. This trip was an extremely eye-opening and life-changing experience for us as we explored a radically different culture and worked with students who did not have access to many resources that we often take for granted. We observed stark racial segregation, which led many of us to reconsider our own race in a way that we had never before. We witnessed the suffering of these incredibly ambitious students who, on a daily basis, face significant adversity including; extreme poverty, unreliable health care, substandard education, familial conflict, racial segregation, and emotional turmoil. In short, the kids have every reason to lose hope.

SA Spread(left) ©South African Student, Siyanda Ncushe; (right) ©South African Student, Lihle Mbaliseli. Courtesy of ArtWorks for Youth.


Sethu3©South African Student, Siphosethu Kondile. Courtesy of ArtWorks for Youth.


However, despite these struggles, they exhibited a grace and a love of life, the likes of which we had never witnessed before; they were some of the strongest individuals we had ever encountered. They demonstrated courage and continued their own pursuit of happiness despite devastating conditions. Art served as a very effective way for these kids to cope with the many challenges they face, because it gives them the power to express themselves and allows them to tell their own stories through creative expression. It provides them with an emotional outlet, and John, along with other volunteers, give them stable authoritative figures to rely on and learn from. Art gives them a powerful voice because they are able to communicate their complex emotions in a way that is more passionate and effective than words alone.

Sazi3© South African Student, Sazi Chapez. Courtesy of ArtWorks for Youth.


Lucy6©Packer Student, Lucy Simon. Courtesy of the artist.


This exhibition expresses the emotional aspects of our experience there through original art created both by Packer students and by students in the ArtWorks for Youth program. Using various forms of visual art including photography, painting, and stop-motion. The exhibition showcases artwork made by students in the ArtWorks for Youth program and, shares the story of the Packer trip to South Africa. We hope to demonstrate the transcendent and uniting power of art, and to explore the very nature of what it means to be happy.

IMG_4263At the Packer Collegiate Institute on the opening night.


IMG_4281At the Packer Collegiate Institute on the opening night.


Opening Images by Paula Rey Jimenez


William Wegman: Woof Woof