Every Voice Matters

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This collaborative exhibition documents the result of a six month project that gathered the opinions of more than 2000 Prince Albert people in their answers to the question: If your voice could reach the ears of the world, what would you most like to say?

From February till August 2014, volunteers approached individuals on the street, at home and at the various institutions in town, including the schools, the old age home, correctional services, the various community projects, the library, the shops and the municipality. To participate, residents of Prince Albert (and some visitors to the town) were asked to write down their name and surname and their answer to the question in whatever language they preferred, and to place their card in a collection box. The outcome of this process was exhibited at PArt 2014, the Prince Albert Arts Festival in September 2014. In total, almost 2100 people gave their answers to the questions. All the original answers are displayed. These answers were also captured electronically and grouped into common themes.

Project Participants: Project leader and curator: Hélène Smit; Project coordinator: Mariette Heskwa; Project advisor: JP Meyer; Project volunteers: Richard Fransen, Sharon Abrahams, Ferdi Willemse, Bodo Wenz,  Sophia Morris, Sharon Abrahams, Lorencia Hesqua, Violetta Makwatie, Kurt Coetzee, Joey Coetzee, Jolene Valintine, Nicolene Hendriks  , Elcardo Blom, Delroy Apies, Ivan Spogter, Sandy Bower, Ilse Schutten, Annette Coetzee, Carol Howes, Lorna Verran, Michael Upton, and approximately 30 other youth volunteers.

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Mariette Heskwa – Project Co-ordinator

Themes for every voice matters

A specific list of themes emerged from the answers provided. The themes included many suggestions about how to make the world a better place; varying levels of distress about a range of social ills; dissatisfaction about service delivery; and a range of various kinds of individual wisdom, wishes, dreams and declarations of love for Prince Albert and South Africa.  Many of the answers referred to several of the categories and so were placed in the category that they mentioned first. By far, the biggest category (almost a quarter) is one in which it is suggested that we should practice more love, respect, peace, co-operation and tolerance as fellow citizens. Another quarter expressed their concern about crime and violence, particularly with regard to rape and the abuse of women and children. Unemployment affects many, and the school children, in particular, expressed their concern about adult alcohol abuse. Environmental concerns mainly centered on littering. The themes and the number of people who listed that theme as their major comment are listed below:

440 – Love, peace, respect, co-operation and tolerance

205 – Inadequate services, facilities, governance and leadership

128 – Crime, gangsterism and corruption

122 – Alcohol and drug abuse

112 – Love and appreciation for Prince Albert and South Africa

112 – Rape

101 – Religion and Spirituality

100 – Youth and child care

95 – Women and child abuse

95 – Unemployment

89 – The development of individual potential, taking responsibility and self management

87 – Violence, fighting and conflict

71 – Environment

60 – Happy, content, no complaints

40 – Wishes and dreams

31 – Racism, apartheid legacy

29 – Re-instituting the death penalty

24 – Poverty and economic struggle, hardship, food shortages

19 – Teenage pregnancy

4 – Gay rights

12 – General

The exhibition is part of a larger project based on the goals of The Depth Leadership Trust. The unconscious mind, whether individual or collective, is often contained in voices that are not obviously powerful and so interventions are needed to help those voices to be heard.  The Trust’s initiatives ensure the application of depth psychology principles in ordinary living, leadership and citizenship which practically means encouraging the constructive expression of all parts or voices of a community. This is done through the development of individual and collective creativity, dialogue and action, so that conflict is resolved, power imbalances are transcended and our full constructive potential is unleashed. The Trust is headed by Helene Smit, a lecturer, group facilitator and author, who specialises in developing psychological literacy and collective processes. The project is a collaboration between the Trust and many of the local residents of Prince Albert.

Comments from visitors to the Every Voice Matters exhibition

The most impressive and meaningful exhibition on the show. Congratulations.  Lindy van Hasselt

I walked into this exhibition and it took my breath away. Just the power of the messages floating on their pieces of paper was enough to send a message into my heart – without even reading one. A very powerful, incredibly sensitive exhibition. You need to take this to other places too. Very powerful! Thank you. Saskia Johnson.

This is extraordinary and superb. For the first time we in Prince Albert have our voices count. Richard Fransen

The voice of the silent has been heard, great job guys, it is touching indeed. N. Wicomb

I’m glad that I was part of such a project.  Cobey van Sensie

Lovely – Every Voice Does Matter. Thank you.

This is a most impressive and fascinating project. It seems like a very interesting idea to be replicated elsewhere. Art being the facilitator in getting information. Lindy (Cape Town)

The politicians should come and read these messages.

Amazingly though provoking and honest!! Yanni and Sonia Vosloo Durban SA.

Absolutely brilliant, keep the good thoughts. Bunny

Really loved it, the way it was presented and the voices. Will think about it a long time. Ingrid Wolfaard

Thank you for the opportunity to hear all the voices. Powerfully presented. Sally Potgieter

Incredible….. Hermon.

Moving, insightful and so well thought through. Thank you. Angela.

I hope the voices are heard by everyone who needs to hear.

Thank you very interesting.

Incredible project Helene – you are indeed an artist! ( keep it up)

Most powerful installation. Wishing you strength to take this forward!  Justine

Media reports

Karoo town speaks out on corruption


Tuesday, 14/10/2014 – 11:58

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Around 2 100 handwritten messages were gathered and exhibited. Many of them speak of concerns around corruption. Photo: Jennifer Cohen.By Jennifer Cohen

In the small Karoo village of Prince Albert, sitting quietly at the foot of the Swartberg mountains, Every Voice Matters.

Or so residents have come to believe. After a dream convinced her, Hélène Smit, director of Depth Leadership Trust, decided to engage people living there, asking them, “If your voice could reach the ears of the world, what would you most like to say?”

Six months later nearly 25% of the town’s population has answered. The 2 100 messages collected – on handwritten cards – were displayed in the Depth Leadership Centre, as an installation at the biennial Prince Albert art festival. This year’s event took place between 18 and 24 September, with 80 artists participating under the theme ofbringing art back home.

Volunteers approached individuals on the street, at home and at the schools, the old age home, the prison, various community projects, the library, shops and the municipality to solicit their contributions. “Many of our encounters took hours because people wanted to tell us their stories,” said Smit.

“The themes emerging from the answers included suggestions about how to make the world a better place; varying levels of distress about a range of social ills; dissatisfaction about service delivery; and offerings of individual wisdom, wishes, dreams and declarations of love for Prince Albert and South Africa,” she summarised.

Corruption crops up again

One such category, probably echoed throughout South Africa, included concerns voiced about corruption.

“Ek wil hê daar moet geen korrupsie wees nie. Ek wil hê daar moet liefde wees,” said one person. [I want there to be no corruption. I want there to be love.]

“Om die korrupsie te stop (jy is nie beter as ander een nie maak nie saak wie en wat jy is nie. Adam Small sê dit in een van sy gedigte),” said another. [To stop the corruption (you are no better than the next person, doesn’t matter who or what you are. Adam Small says this in one of his poems.)]

Corruption Watch’s executive director David Lewis was taken with the project and has agreed to travel to the small town to hear more about people’s concerns.

 Article in Die Burger newspaper