The mobile multi-media “Reversing the Legacy of the 1913 Natives Land Act” exhibition explores the issue of land ownership over the past 100 years of South African history; starting in 1913, when the Natives Land act was introduced as a precursor to forced removals and racial segregation and moving to a celebration of present day successes.

This is no conventional exhibition, but rather an experiential educational journey in which performers, poets, artists, educators and technology come together to create a moving artwork aimed at educating the youth. The visitor travels through a series of interactive spaces amongst which are the advent of hut taxes, the rise of mining communities, forced removals, labour unrest, the Rivonia trial and the birth of freedom in South Africa.

Event Management company, ZA Fanzone is behind the conceptualisation, organisation and production of the exhibition for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. They contracted the Gearhouse Group of Companies as the technical supplier for the entire 9 province roadshow, providing Lighting, Audio, Audio Visual, Rigging, Structures, ICT and LED Screens from regional branches in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban as well as a 12 bay SupaDome structure for the Kimberley leg of the tour. The Kimberley version of the “20 years of Freedom” exhibition was planned to open just ahead of the Youth Day Celebrations at the Galeshewe stadium, contributing to the city’s commemorative activities. The exhibition has been extended by a week in each venue so far, strong testimony to its power to inform and inspire its audience by highlighting the positive aspects of the country’s transformation to date. 

This exhibition is one of the largest of its kind to be mounted in South Africa to date and has evolved over the months, growing in scope, adding exhibition pieces and spaces and in the process transforming from the “1913 Natives Land Act exhibition” which is how it opened in Cape Town in June 2013, to its current form, now known as “Reversing the Legacy of the 1913 Natives Land Act”.

Each area of the exhibit is independently lit and has its own ambient sound and audio visual environment. Par 64’s, 56s and ETC Source 4 profiles are used for generic localised mood lighting with the addition of Robe LED force 18RGBW, ROBE ROBIN 600 and Martin Mac 250 Washlights and Entours for colour and effect. 

The audio design transitions the visitor from one setting to the next, using unobtrusively positioned speakers to fill each setting with contained, atmospheric sound. The audio team used JBL Eons and L-ACOUSTICS 115XT HiQ Active Loudspeakers with SOUNDCRAFT EPM8 Mixing Consoles to provide an individually controlled audio experience in each area.

Audio visual reinforcement also plays an integral role in recreating each scenario and incorporates the AV elements slightly differently in each space. In some areas, large plasmas relay information whilst in other settings full scale projection onto screen and set pieces provides a moving, narrative background. Gearhouse’s AV team deployed a range of projectors ranging from PANASONIC PT-DZ6710E to Christie Roadster HD18K 1080 HD DLP® units to meet the spectrum of AV requirements.

As this is the first exhibition of its kind, the initial planning process between Sue Baguley and Kurt Swaile of ZA Fanzone and Gearhouse was intense. According to Gearhouse Cape Town’s Branch Manager, Charl Smit, the technical designs were developed from the client’s concept drawings over a series of production meetings. “We are drawing on the technological capacity of the Group to speak to theatricality of the event and deliver maximum sensory impact, in line with what our client envisaged.

Much of our business is once-off but this time round we are able to provide a much more dramatic effect with the advantage of being able to adjust and perfect things over the run and from venue to venue.”

Gearhouse South Africa is providing all technical elements together with sister company LEDVision’s 6mm LED screens, Gearhouse In2structures Dome venue structure and Gearhouse ICS’ IT components, including the capability to sign a “Virtual Pledge” on iPad at the culmination of the walk-through.

“Providing the technical support for a travelling exhibition is both energising and challenging,” says Gerry Coughlan, Operations Delivery Manager at Gearhouse’s Cape Town branch. “Although we are used to providing exhibition support in the form of trussing, lighting, audio, registration, voting systems, stand building and rigging in the course of our daily operations across the Group - this one is something a little different for us. The dynamic nature of this event and the number of venues involved posed some interesting dilemmas for us to overcome. Of course, each site also comes with a different set of parameters so the design and execution needs to be very fluid and dynamic to accommodate the changes throughout the duration.“

Gerry also stresses the importance of putting the right type of technical staffing together to suit the event. “There is a lot of flexibility and adaptability required on the part of the technical teams and we needed our client to feel confident and supported at all times. Our technical team had to be made up of service oriented, willing and understanding individuals – under the leadership of solution-driven Project Managers who are able co-ordinate the changes smoothly between the various disciplines. Often one can only see what needs to be changed once everything is set up and in place, which can have a knock-on effect on scheduling and planning; but to ZA Fanzone’s credit, each installation so far has topped the previous one.”

Sue Baguley believes that the technical element is an integral part of the event, “Gearhouse brings their expertise and professionalism to all of our events but in the case of the exhibition they were able to add a new dimension to the experience, bringing this emotional exhibition to life with sound and lighting in a dramatic way.”

Gearhouse and ZA Fanzone have collaborated on a number of events since the 2010 World Cup areas which were supplied through LEDVision, the Group’s large outdoor screen supplier.

story Robyn D’Alessandro, Photo Obed Zilwa

Jul 10, 2014

The Gearhouse Group of Companies