‘From where I am sitting’: supper and conversation with Lionel Davis
Honouring his life and work in the month of his 80th birthday, we have invited Lionel Davis to be this month’s Supper Club storyteller on Thursday 30 June.
Lionel Davis has been a prolific producer of artworks over the past 40 years. His contributions as an artist and arts activist and educator are integral to accounts of seminal art organisations such as the Community Arts Project (CAP), Vakalisa, the Thupelo Workshop and Greatmore Art Studio.
In 1964 Lionel was arrested and sentenced to seven years on Robben Island for committing acts of sabotage. It was during his prison years on the Island that he completed his Senior Certificate. After his release he was restricted under a banning order and house arrest until 1976. At the Evangelical Art and Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift in 1980 he worked toward a Diploma in Fine Arts. His interest in art led him to complete a BA Fine Art degree with the University of Cape Town in 1994.
Lionel has contributed to literary magazines, books on education, poetry anthologies and calendars. He has produced cartoons for a children’s magazine and taught screen-printing at CAP. He participated in the Triangle Workshop in New York and the Thupelo Workshop in Johannesburg. In 1988 he was deeply involved in community-based children’s education. He has exhibited in Gaborone, Botswana and Pine Plains, New York, USA amongst other places. He has worked for the South African National Art Gallery as a part- time art educator and also as an education officer on Robben Island
About the District Six Museum’s Supper Clubs and ‘tafel conversations’
The phrase ‘gooi ‘n tafel’ is a familiar one to people from District Six and the Bo Kaap. It references the tables that were laid out by families for Christmas Choirs on Christmas Eve and for ‘nagtroepe’ (Malay Choirs) at New Year. Laden with seasonal fruit like watermelon as well as pastries and cakes, the tafels were celebratory – marking the festive season between the December to January period. The table is thus an evocative symbol for the District Six community. It represents coming together, sharing, breaking bread and storytelling around a common space.
Tables also reference the intimate family rituals around food, work and religion that were performed in District Six homes before destruction, on a daily basis.
The ‘Tafel Conversations and Supper Club’ concept emerged from a felt need to create opportunities for conversations of all kinds: enlightening, entertaining, philosophical, lyrical, visual or performative. It is intended to bring people together who might ordinarily not have met, and also create opportunities for friends to meet up with each other. It aims to contribute to a culture which encourages the expression of different points of view in a space which is contained and supportive.
The 2016 iteration of the ‘Tafel Conversations’ is called ‘From where I am sitting.’ Guest storytellers will be invited to share their stories in whichever way they wish, from where they are sitting: personally, professionally, socially, politically or from any other perspective that they might choose. Guests attending the session are invited to listen and to later engage in conversations with the storyteller and each other. Conversations continue over supper and dessert.