5 questions answered: visual artist Sonya Rademeyer


Composer Franco Prinsloo recently asked visual artist Sonya Rademeyer five questions regarding Sonic re-dress that you might find interesting:

1. Briefly introduce yourself

I am a visual artist based near Cape Town (South Africa) and have been in the arts full-time for the last 22 years. Prior to that, I was straddling two different careers as I was also working as an ICU nurse for many years. I completed my arts degree at Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) where I lived for a 7-year period. This was quite a challenging time for me in my life, as I was working at a cardiac & heart transplantation nurse during the day whilst completing my arts degree at night. On another level, living off the African continent made me realize quite acutely that I could never leave my terra firma as I am rooted to African soil. Having been born and raised in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) the red soil is, I think, part of my blood … part of myself. There is of course another side to all of this, and that is that I was brought up in what was then a British colony: I still grapple with colonization on a personal level as well as in my current artmaking, often expressed through the medium of performance. Empathy (on non-empathy) is what drives me in my creative practice.

2. In what way did you contribute to the project?

I responded to an open-call from the Vrystaat Art Festival last year where a project could be imagined that included technology. This was early into the COVID -19 lockdown stage in 2019, and where possibilities of virtual exhibitions and festivals were being imagined and put into place. I connected with talented South African composer, Franco Prinsloo, and we brainstormed together to come up with something quite unique: this included five musical compositions, each representing one of the five universal emotions that all humans share collectively [happiness / sadness / fear / disgust /anger]. Connected to this we imagined using an App that could share this music across the African continent and connect people across Africa, and reached out to Dr. Ben Outram (UK) who is an independent freelance scientist, engineer, technologist, artist and science author. Ben is the developer of the MusicPaint App through which the compositions are playable and the digital artworks are created in response to the compositions! As Sonic re-dress is primarily about sound and healing, we also reached out to a music therapist, and are grateful to have Anja Pollard on board who is a registered Arts Therapist (Music) and a Fellow of the American Music and Imagery Association. So, an incredible founding Team! As the visual artist to the project, I also collate all sent images into the website and drive the translation of the website into multiple indigenous languages.

[Sonic re-dress Project has been developed in partnership with the Programme for Innovation in Artform Development (“PIAD”), an initiative of the Vrystaat Art Festival, generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.]

3. Sonic re-dress is all about connection. How have you connected with others during these difficult times?

I really like this question! Sonic re-dress is certainly about connecting and we are imagining this project to really grow over the following year. Just recently someone likened the project to and “archive of memory” which really excited me! What is an archive? For me, an archive speaks to a safe place where searching and connecting (in new ways) can happen: something is discovered and new understandings and connections are made. Sonic re-dress allows for new connections that might otherwise not have happened, opening the continent to an exchange of sorts … isn’t that incredible?! But to come back to your question, the digital or virtual space in 2019 really expanded my connectivity with some incredible and powerful Creatives both on the continent and beyond. Through the project, also, I have been afforded many meaningful and deep connections that have come through virtual connections. This has certainly made me feel less isolated, and this is what we are hoping what Sonic re-dress will be able to do by connecting other Africans through music and digital art-making.

4. Through contributing to the project, how have you made new connections to others?

Well, what has been really fascinating has been the rather unexpected development to Sonic re-dress: de-colonizing the website into as many indigenous languages possible on the continent and through this action, stepping out of the dominant colonising languages barring English. It is proving to be challenging as we do not have funding for this, yet the warmth and generosity that I have experienced from people who have stepped into this space and simply offered to do it without any remuneration, has really touched my soul. There is something so strong and beautiful here … and linking to identity, memory, culture, strength and even fragility. I am deeply moved every time a new African indigenous language is added. [We are only just starting here, so if you would like to add your own indigenous language from wherever you are in Africa, contact me and you will be added to the “Team” alongside other translators from the continent! You needn’t be a translator to do this. Many of the translations have been done by artists or musicians.] So yes, I have been privileged to have made new and unexpected connections across the continent.

5. Sonic re-dress is all about connecting to your emotions and letting your creativity free. In your opinion, how does the project contribute to self-awareness and healing?

The landing page of Sonic re-dress is the place where you can link to the music (the five compositions) from AND get to know how to use the MusicPaint App which will allow you to create your painting (using your finger) and send it back to the website. Once I receive your digital painting, I place it in the African Map correlating to the emotion you chose. So, say for example, that you chose ‘fear’ and you come from Egypt: I will place your digital painting in the “Fear Map” and connect it to the African county you’ve given me. What’s really special about this, is that feeling fear in Egypt - to come back to our example - might show similarities (or not) with someone feeling fear in Namibia. The visual experience of this already connects and might bring healing to a place of loneliness and the self-awareness that others are experiencing similar emotions. It is such a simple project, really, that allows for easy participation that is in no way threatening. You remain anonymous, if that is what you choose for yourself. The only requirement (for me to know where to place your digital creation), is for you to indicate your country. Creating the painting is honestly a fun experience with constant surprises as to how the colours change though MusicPaint which translates touch and sound into a visual work of art on your cellular phone or laptop screen!

Try it out on www.sonic-redress.com