National 29.8.2016 01:26 pm

Signals used to flag down taxis inspire art

A watercolour taxi sign artwork entitled To Marabastad by Susan Woolf.

A watercolour taxi sign artwork entitled To Marabastad by Susan Woolf.

The art of Sandton resident Susan Woolf was been inspired by taxi signals.

Sandton resident Susan Woolf is a unique, authentic South African artist who is inspired by an interesting subject – taxi signs, City Buzz reports.

‘This topic is very relevant and is even a part of the school syllabus.’

She completed her PhD majoring in taxi hand signs at the University of the Witwatersrand through the anthropology and art department, and uses these signs as an expression of art.

Woolf explained: “Taxi hand signals are a silent, gestural language used by millions of people to signal to taxi drivers where they want to go.”

She added it took her five years to complete this qualification.

“This topic is very relevant and is even a part of the school syllabus. The publication of my taxi signs and work has been introduced into the South African school syllabus for Grade 11 English, resulting in the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town extending its participatory educational programmes (programmes to bring people into the museum, particularly pupils) on a daily basis,” she highlighted.



She added the taxi hand signs had been her project since 2004. “My artwork has tapped into contemporary, worldwide transport issues that touch on many cultural and economic concerns, and resulted in participation in a group exhibition on communication titled Talk to Me in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York and two multimedia, multisensory exhibitions in South Africa.”

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Her art was displayed at the Wits Art Museum in 2013, and another exhibition is currently showing in the Jewish Museum in Cape Town, which she describes as “the most extended and far-reaching taxi hand sign exhibition to date”.

This exhibition also includes her most recent abstract handmade artworks, consisting of paper pulp, with numbered and lettered beads. In these artworks, partially hidden words are buried among the lettered beads.

“They (art) suggest a frenetic transport environment and taxi inroads into the cities (in Gauteng) from every direction. Movement and simple shapes from the blind language continue to provide the impetus for my resulting contemporary artworks.”

Viewers at the exhibition can also take in two short films. Firstly, a two-part movie, Isindlela Zamagondwane, and secondly, a film on Bree Street taxi rank – one of the ranks where Woolf’s research took place with the assistance of two co-researchers.

These films are based on the research done by Woolf on taxi signs in taxi ranks and are inspired by her research.

– Caxton News Service.