Lien Botha: Lost in Translation

Barnard is pleased to present South African artist Lien Botha’s thirteenth solo exhibition titled  Lost in translation, where she revisits a childhood narrative Boet & Saartjie. For this series, initiated in 2018, the artist has created digitally constructed photographic images with accompanying embroidered ‘second titles.’ The first titles are in English and inscribed on the actual photographic work and the second titles (in her mother tongue; Afrikaans) acts as a subtext artefact/curio. Image and text, besides activating a  ‘re-reading’ of this particular primary school textbook (familiar to many South-Africans of especially Botha’s generation), has prevailed in much of her output over the past two decades.


“It is a curious thing to reflect on the ‘static’ content of your youth fifty years after the event. And so, in search of a  past/present continuum I have merged the individual characters of the young protagonists Saartjie and her brother Boet, their father, mother and dog Buks,  into the recent South African landscape. Re-framing the past into a comic-style genre allows for playful undertones whilst referencing current issues such as the notion of ‘home’ in a fragile social and natural environment.


The naive figures of Boet and Saartjie, juxtaposed with mostly external landscapes, results in a tension between the seemingly playful characters, gradually being usurped by the very landscapes they inhabit  ̶  alluding to the futility of reminiscence when grafting the figments of a colonial past. Translation’, besides its literal configuration, implies relocation/shift/movement. This in itself is an activator for the historical stasis.”


The Lost in Translation portfolio consists of twelve digitally collated photographic works of A3 size, edition of 5 with 2 A/P prints. Corresponding to the digital collages are twelve smaller works (A5, edition/5) consisting of digitally embroidered Afrikaans texts on cotton fabric. This process suggests a cadence of receding ‘greyscale,’ while simultaneously paying homage to analogue photography and a vulnerable language (her mother-tongue Afrikaans and the mot juste for each of the works.) The embroidered Afrikaans texts also demarcates the black and white outlines of the adapted original Boet & Saartjie drawings by Wendy Jackson (1968)  ̶  synthesizing Botha’s interests as a lens-based artist working with text, layering and alternative materials. Extending the notion of appropriation, titles of individual images frequently foretell literary or film titles such as Portrait of the Artist as a Dog (Tjanktaal) and a pun on Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog by Dylan Thomas; O Mother, where art thou? (Moedertaal), Dog Day Afternoon (Braktaal) and of course the body title Lost in Translation from the 2003 movie directed by Sofia Coppola.