Photograph by Ben Law-Viljoen

Jan du Toit, The Fruits of Labour, 1997

Metal, wood and found objects, 147 x 56.5 x 39cm

Artist statement:

I was born in 1974 on a family farm in Tulbagh. I was the fifth generation to live on the land. From my youth political unrest made me conscious of social injustices being committed under the system of apartheid.

I started studying fine art in 1995 at the late Foundation School of Art in Observatory, Cape Town. During this time, I befriended someone working at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and was kept up to date with the latest revelations.

In 1997 I created The Fruits of Labour. It was mostly made of found objects I picked up on the farm. It was still legal to implement the “dop system” on farms, which was used as partial payment for farm workers – they would receive wine three times a day: in the morning, lunchtime and at the end of the day. This practice was implemented for generations and many workers became dependent on it. I did not agree with the system, I could see the negative effect it had on the workers.

The sculpture itself was made from very worn old tools that workers used daily, it was the only testament left of their existence. The identity of individuals were faded like the worn tools they had used. I made everything inside the bowl from steel, comprising of a thick slice of bread, a tobacco pipe and little tobacco box, and a mug for wine (“dopbeker”) that was a common way of measuring used on farms in apartheid South Africa.

I was against the practice of the dop system and its effects. As a white queer person in the 1990’s, I felt that I had to speak out against the injustices being committed against black workers, as many of which had no or little voice.

Presently, I do think it would be patronising to use this cause to further my own career. I moved into exploring my own identity politics, which is more relevant now. Who am I, where do I belong and what can I do to contribute to a more just society? I am of the opinion that one should start with making a difference in your immediate environment. The basic needs of every person is the same, and this is something we should all fight for.