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FOTAG Focus Articles

For a number of years the Natal Witness ran articles by FOTAG members. These articles called the FOTAG Focus discussed artworks from the collection on display.

Home > Articles > Fotag Focus > Tyd is Stof, Jaap Jacobs

Tyd is Stof

2000, steel, plasic, dust

Jaap Jacobs

by Kobus Moolman

Tyd is Stof, Jaap Jacobs

One of the (many) joys I derive from working at the Gallery is the opportunity to talk about works of art with people, young and old, from all walks of life and cultures. In all of these discussions it is the meeting between the individual and the artwork that has always fascinated and intrigued me.

With human identity as the centre of this process, the aim has always been to facilitate a trusting space where the viewer can journey outside themselves, beyond their separateness, their unique and indisputable difference, and encounter the Stranger - the artwork. Many Strangers, of course, are only long-forgotten friends, and the surprise that overtakes people when they recognise/understand a particular element of an artwork, is wonderful.

But more wondrous still is the discovery of a connection with a total Stranger, when something speaks to us in a completely foreign language, and yet somehow (we do not know how) we find that we are able to understand and relate to the message. The modern work, Tyd is Stof (time is dust) by local artist Jaap Jacobs is one such piece. It is a complex work, which I cannot do justice to in this brief article, dealing with issues of artistic representation (abstract versus real), cultural identity (specifically Afrikaner identity), as well as time and mortality.

It is a difficult work: there is no getting away from it. But, interestingly, the difficulty lies more in the prejudices, fears and inadequacy within us the viewer when faced with such a Stranger, than in the nature of the work itself, which is eerily beautiful in its starkness and simplicity.

The Gallery is currently running a training programme to help educators understand and teach the Arts and Culture syllabus for Outcomes Based Education. About a month ago, my colleague and I examined the theme, 'the language of art' with a group of eight educators from Ndlelayabasha Junior, Bhekuximba Junior and Willowfontein Inter-school. At the end of the session I decided to 'jump into the deep end', as it were, and to contemplate Jacobs' work.

For a long time we stood in silence in front of it, each person listening to the conflicting emotions it generated within them. All of us were struggling to see through the distortions in our mind that had been created by our preconception of what art should look like. Then slowly, as we focused in on the texture of the work, the natural colours, the evocative forms produced by a slow process of dripping, each of us began to connect with this Stranger in our own deeply personal manner.

It reminds me of the road to Greytown at night, one woman said. There are the stars, said another. It is a dirt road. It is a donga. It is the earth crying for all the wicked things that have been done to her.

Yes, I could hear this ghostly Stranger agree. Yes, it repeated, as it met each person at a silent crossroad in their lives, encouraging them to look deeper, further, wider.

More FOTAG Focus Articles


Johansson collectionThe Tatham Art Gallery holds an Art Collection that contains significant British and French artworks dating back to the 18th century. Its South-African art collection is focused on, but not exclusive to, the art of KwaZulu-Natal.


ImageThe Tatham Art Gallery hosts a range of Art Exhibitions. These include traveling and researched exhibitions as well as exhibitions initiated by the Gallery and compiled from the collection.


A selection of current and archival articles from the Tatham Art Gallery. These articles provide a historical and contemporary perspective on the Gallery and the visual arts in KwaZulu-Natal.

Art Gallery Shop

ImageThe Tatham Art Gallery shop stocks high quality works by local crafters. It is an ideal place to find unique presents and original collectables.