G1K1: a group exhibition by artists/soldiers/nurses conceptualising works reflecting their personal experiences within the South African Defence Force during the Apartheid era. The term, GK, in the South African Defence Force, was an indication of a soldier’s battle-readiness. The “G” indicated whether a soldier was healthy and could participate in physical activity. The “K” showed where a soldier could be deployed as well as the level of medical care they should have access to. “G1” indicated the soldier was healthy and could participate in any and all physical activity. “K1” meant the soldier could be deployed anywhere and anytime without a medical facility in the vicinity.
Between 1967 and 1994 approximately 600 000 young white men were conscripted to perform national service in the South African Defence Force. Although also a conflict to maintain the status quo of white minority rule within South Africa, the Border War was also essentially a Cold War conflict between the USA and USSR with South Africa and Cuba representing each side respectively.
For many soldiers who fought, the trauma is deep. Offered up by their parents, family and the ruling government in sacrifice to their Calvinistic God, these 18 year old boys were sent to war. Now middle-aged they are left to bear the shame and guilt of the white South African in the new South Africa. Theirs are stories nobody wants to hear, neither the current South African government nor contemporary society. They are the proverbial elephant in the room. These stories and scars are consigned to the dark, twisted dreams and 3am vigils of the men who lived them.
My body of work was titled, Souty (pronounced “so-tee”). “Soutpiel” or ‘souty” was a derogatory term given to English-speaking conscripts. It is derived from the metaphorical image of English speakers having one foot in Africa and one foot in Europe with their penises hanging in the ocean. I spent 14 months (the length of time I spent on the Border in the South West territorial armed forces as an Intelligence non-com officer) collecting army boots, deconstructing them and re-assembling them to form canvases upon which I has etched trace images of dislocation, trauma and melancholy. These canvases were displayed along with sculpted and archived objects.