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Project Feet Liezl Hoving


by Martha Mukaiwa


 

Holey socks and leopard print shoes, shoes in any shape you choose. In what looks like a fetish of the foot variety, Liezl Hoving’s Project Feet is a fun, frolicsome photographic exhibition currently in residence at Studio 77 as part of the momentous Month of Photography. Boasting a bright array of boots, barefeet and battered socks, Project Feet presents people from the knee downwards and entices viewers to imagine what one can tell about a person from the sharpness, shape or shine of their shoe. Though the exhibition seems fabulously frivolous at first glance, those with an eye for detail may notice an assortment of shoes below each picture tucked into which are words from the anonymous models in answer to three questions. What makes you happy, what are you struggling with and what do people not know about you?    In an exercise that exposes our own prejudices and assumptions, Hoving’s exhibit forces us to create narratives from something as arbitrary as a person’s way of standing, their choice of sock colour or the state of their veldskoen.  And the exhibit is all the more affecting when one reads the hidden shoe captions and sees that just like any metaphor about books and covers it is similarly futile to judge a person by their takkies.  Further depth can be found delightful when Hoving speaks of her inspiration for the exhibition which was entered as part of the Month of Photography’s “People and Territories” competition in which she was a finalist. “When I was in India I did a lot of yoga and meditation which explored the issue of identity in terms of who I am and who other people are and that’s where the idea came from,” says Hoving. “With Project Feet, I want to challenge people to see beyond what they encounter at first glance and how we often put people in boxes based on superficial considerations when we actually  have no idea what people are like inside.”  Indeed, as one embarks upon their feet fathoming there is certainly an element of surprise when one is presented with the suave suede shoes of a local car guard who is afraid he doesn’t have any talents and the striped sneakers of music manager who says no one would know that he “is struggling to stay alive” as he has cancer. Most poignant, however, are the feet of Guesthouse Receptionist and Driver ensconced in beautiful gold diamante stilettos and hardy black work shoes respectively.   Like a piece of gum with a suprise centre, Guesthouse Receptionist shows us the glamour one can find behind the supposed ennui of a guesthouse desk. It illustrates the hidden hopes and dreams of people who are often mistaken for furniture and whose automatic and service based existence is only a means to a wonderfully imagined and thoroughly glamorous end.  In a surprising and emotive correlation, Guesthouse Receptionist’s aspiration is evident in her caption and is in sync with her shoes in her admission that she is “struggling to live the life she wants.” Unwittingly optimistic and if not manifest in her life, the hope she has for her future sits pretty in gorgeous shoes on her dainty feet.  Driver’s shoe caption is less hopeful and seems to shed shameful light on an omnipresent prejudice we have in Namibia. Though his shoes say nothing at all, one is startled at his caption which reads “No one would guess from my shoes that I am Chinese.”  In this instance, the anonymity of  shoes act as a refuge and respite from being boxed into certain stereotypes and connotations based on ethnicity and one can only wonder what experiences would have led him to find freedom in something as funny as feet.Frivolous at first but filled with a  depth of emotion and range of lives focused fantastically through feet, Hoving’s exhibition is a deceptively demure offering of  the unsaid, unheard and  unseen  whisperings of one’s speaking sole.    Catch Project Feet at Studio 77 until the 21st September and at the Windhoek Show as of Friday the 23rd of September