Cross-cultural evening at the Tatham Art Gallery


Kristin Ng-Yang’s multi-media Bird/Fish installation will take centre stage at a fundraiser at the Tatham Art Gallery on May 20. Photo: Supplied

THE Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg will be playing host to Bird/Fish, a cross-cultural fundraising event, featuring visual arts, music and dance on Friday, May 20 at 6.30 pm for 7 pm.

Bird/Fish is a fusion of Chinese and South African art, devised by ‘Maritzburg artist, Kristin Ng-Yang, who has built a giant installation, inspired by a Chinese song lamenting the thwarted love of a bird and a fish.

The installation, which is also titled Bird/Fish, is made up of 148 fish, which have been painted onto plexiglass, and then suspended from a six metre wide and three and a half metre high metal structure. The idea, says Ng-Yang, is to create the illusion of a bird.

“I wanted to stretch my creativity,” she added, “and to use my traditional fish in new ways.”

Initially Ng-Yang tried making fish from ceramics and glass but these substances proved both fragile and expensive. She then began experimenting with cutting fish out of plexiglass. The results have proven to be both exciting and challenging.

The multi-media piece also includes music from Jianjun Wang, a friend in Beijing, and a dance piece by ‘Maritzburg contemporary dancers, Bonwa Mbontsi and Tegan Peacock, of ReRouted Dance Theatre.

“The installation is intended to be meditative … a reflection of life’s journey into inevitable oblivion,” Ng-Yang explains. “It also alludes to the way in which one is confronted with choice, while also being subject to fate and obliged to accept or resist in the process of learning about self and other.

“In part the work is autobiographical in that it refers to my own predicament as an artist, mother, part African and part Chinese. My identity is tempered as different philosophical, cultural and gendered dimensions both challenge and mould me.”

Peacock and Mbontsi have drawn on both Oriental and African rhythms to create their dance piece for Bird/Fish.

Says Peacock: “The idea behind the installation is to show that despite living in different realities the bird and the fish are in love and that they can meet in a space beyond reality.”

She added that she and Mbontsi will be dancing both inside and outside the installation and crossing between the spaces to show the connections between the worlds of water and air.

Ng-Yang – who is doing a practice-led PhD at the Centre for Visual Art at the University of KwaZulu-Natal – is taking her Bird/Fish installation to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in July, where it will be exhibited as part of the Fringe.

To help raise money for the festival, Ng-Yang is hosting Friday’s Bird/Fish event. It will feature music from pianist, Christopher Duigan, Xinyue Zhang (playing the traditional Chinese instrument the guzheng), Qinisi Zungu on the djembe drums and vocalist Abongile Matyila.

Mbontsi and Peacock will do their dance piece, before Chinese traditional dancer, Doris Heng Wang, takes to the floor. Mbontsi will also be doing a collaborative work with Heng Wang.

“This is going to be a very special meeting of African and Chinese culture,” Ng-Yang said.

Refreshments will be provided by The Secret Garden.

Tickets are R100 (R80 students) and booking is through Louis Buchler at 083 548 4909 or via email at There will also be tickets at the door.

Dress is smart casual and the event will run for around an hour.


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