Change the world


The role of place contributing to one’s identity forms the backbone of Victoria Flowers’ research for her Master’s degree in Fine Art, which she recently obtained at Nelson Mandela University’s Autumn Graduation.

This graduation was also special as she walked over the stage for the first time.

Due to the pandemic, she could not do so with her Bachelors degree and Honours in Visual Arts, both cum laude, in 2020 and 2021. Her mother also passed away during her Master’s degree studies.

“The theme of being ‘Out of Place’ was chosen after I was struggling to come to terms with my relationship to my home, after losing my mother.

"So much of my experience of both my home and my community, was attached to the memory of her, and without her being present things felt amiss.

"I started to question the role I played within my home and community, and how much the place I resided in had influenced my identity in the present”, Victoria said.

In addition, her research and art addressed the complexities of her ‘coloured identity’ in Malabar, Gqeberha. The degree consisted of a written dissertation, entitled Out of Place: An analysis of place as a contributor to the complexities of my "coloured" identity in Malabar, Gqeberha and a practical body of artwork, in response to the research.

“I believe that the racial classification system used within our country, limits the ways in which Coloured people, in particular, are perceived and how they present themselves. This system fails to account for the influence of ethnic and cultural identities, as well as internal and external factors, such as place, which creates new multifaceted and creolised identities”, she said. 

Malabar was established after the forced removals onset by the Group Areas Act of 1950 and the displacement of residents from South End.

Victoria considered specific locations, which were significant to creolised peoples, and how a place like Malabar and the individuals who reside in it have been influenced by historical legacies of both colonisation and apartheid.

This assisted her in contextualising the contemporary lived experiences of Coloured individuals in the Malabar community and the effect it has on her own artistic practice.

For examination purposes, her paintings were first displayed in various locations in her community of Malabar, where she resides and have a personal connection to.

These were spaces of social cohesion and more personal and intimate ones, such as a communal basketball court, a corner shop, barbershop, the high school and within homes of individuals and her own home. Her examiners and the residents were the only ones viewing the work there.

Thereafter the works were exhibited at the University’s Bird Street Gallery, to be displayed as a whole, cohesive body of work and viewed by the public. The people who interacted with the immediate spaces in which they were displayed.

“My plan is to pursue my PhD, building on the foundation established during my Master’s research. I enjoy writing, researching and have experience doing some teaching while tutoring at the University. I also realised how much it benefits a student to have lecturers who assist them in achieving their full potential as I had during my studies”.

“My supervisor, Professor Vulindlela Nyoni, also obtained his PhD on the same day as my graduation. My co-supervisor Jonathan van der Walt recently completed the prestigious William Humpreys Artist in Residence programme in Kimberley”, she says.

Victoria believes she could not have achieved half of what she did, without the support, knowledge, and experience that her supervisors provided.

Her dream job is in an academic environment, hopefully in a lecturing capacity. “But ultimately, I would love to open up and manage my own gallery.”

She also wants her Master’s study to be an ongoing project and continue to meet people, who reside or work in, or have a connection with the community of Malabar and make works about these individuals.

“There was a lot of interest in the project, as it was coming to completion, and she had to limit my workload to successfully finish her work for the exam”, she says. 

“There are so many more stories and people whom I have met, who deserve recognition for the roles they play within the community, however big or small that may be. I think it is important to show an appreciation for the richness they bring to the space. I do think the project has the potential to grow into something a lot bigger.”

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