Mosaic memories of a painful past

Mosaic artist Reagan Rubain, of Ocean View, with some of the memorial benches he has created in honour of families forcefully removed from their homes under apartheid.

In an act of unity that draws together atrocities of the past and hope for the future, three artists and a civic group are working together to create memorial benches that recall the forced removals of far south families under apartheid.

Mary-Anne Potts, of the Kommetjie Residents’ Association, says the association is raffling paintings by Kommetjie artists to raise money for two commemorative mosaic benches to be placed in Kommetjie, near the boat launch, looking out to the sea.

Beth Lowe donated a painting of a Kommetjie scene and Chip Snaddon donated two colourful prints of fishing scenes in Kommetjie.

The benches themselves will be created by mosaic artist Reagan Rubain, of Ocean View, in memory of the Daniels, Allen and Francke families who were forced out of Kommetjie and Witsands between 1968 and 1972.

Mr Rubain said he found it poignant working on the benches because he had grown up in Ocean View, where dispossessed families had been moved to by the apartheid government. And the community, especially the youth, was still living with the impact of that social engineering.

“I can’t do much, but I hope my art will inspire others and shed some light on the daily plight of our people,” he said.

Mr Rubain was previously approached by the Simon’s Town Naval and Historic Museum to create memorial benches in Simon’s Town, and then again by the Kommetjie Residents Association to make the benches for Kommetjie. He believes that if these stories are remembered, history will not repeat itself.

He said he had been born an artist and had fallen in love with mosaics. He studied the medium at the Spier Arts Academy, which has since closed.

“As a child growing up poor, I always wished I was rich, but art humbled me, and meeting the people who shared their stories as I made these benches was very humbling. I want to make them happy with my art. I will never truly know what they went through, but I want to help with the healing process.“

Ocean View had been peaceful during his childhood but gangs and drugs had turned it into a broken place, where people were deeply traumatised, and the wounds of the past had never healed, he said.

“I hope my art can attract other people to Ocean View and help change their minds about it. There are good people here, amazing people, powerful people. Art is powerful too, so I hope I can build a positive difference through my work too.“

He wants people to look at the benches he is making and remember the atrocities committed against those forced from their homes, and then consider that the bad people in Ocean View were not born bad, but that what happened in the past impacts their community to this day.

He would like to have benches all over Ocean View, he said, to inspire the next generation not to harbour hate but to aspire to a better life.

“We can never undo what happened, but we can fix our people’s future and help them with their healing process.“

A raffle ticket costs R100. There are only 110 tickets. Contact Mary-Anne Potts at 021 7830616, 076 784 0648 or mapotts@telkomsa.net to enter.

Read more about the Forced Removals here.