A garden flourishing with poems – a new experience

Johan Van Zyl -- Fri, 07/15/2016 - 08:29

A garden flourishing with poems – a new experience

the Mooi River streams from the northn | into the beautiful town | our town is rather town than city (TT Cloete, Potchefstroom, 2015)

Thus begins TT Cloete’s poem Potchefstroom – a poem he wrote specially for a poem project in the NWU Botanical Garden only a few months before his death.

Byderhand Tuinverse (garden verses at hand) offers poetry lovers a unique experience. The visitor can now amble through the garden and listen on a mobile phone to TT Cloete and other Potchefstroom poets reading their own work. Visitors can also read the poems, listen to musical settings or enjoy animations of the poems.

Byderhand (At Hand), a site-specific digital literature project, was presented as part of the word art programme at the Clover Aardklop National Arts Festival in 2015. The concept of site-specific literature is that a reader must be at the place where the poem is staged or placed and experience the work right there.

The project consisted of four subprojects: Garden Verses in the Botanical Garden (poems and children’s verses), Haven Stories at the Book Oasis (short stories and children’s stories), a Wandering Story at the Technical High School (teen story) and Taxistrips on the FNB shuttle route) (strips). Readers use their mobile phones or tablets to scan the QR codes and gain access to the content. All the work for Byderhand 2015 (At Hand 2015) was specially created for the project by writers and artists with ties to Potchefstroom. It was the first time that something like this was undertaken at an arts festival in South Africa and it offered a completely novel experience to festivalgoers. The project was well received and was awarded the ATKV Aartvark prize for boundary-pushing work.

In the Garden Verses project 15 poets with ties to Potchefstroom were invited to write poems befitting the Botanical Garden. The renowned land artist Strijdom van der Merwe, sculpted totem poles that portray the poems visually. After Clover Aardklop 2015, the garden verses and the works of art found permanent homes in the garden and expansion of the project has started with translations of the poems in English and Setswana.

Garden poets include established poets such as Hans du Plessis, Johan Myburg, Tom Gouws, Heilna du Plooy, Hein Viljoen, Susan Smith and Carina van der Walt, as well as budding poets such as Etienne Terblanche, Adri Breed, Ruan Fourie, Ihette Jacobs and Jansen Vermeulen. For younger readers there is garden filled with children’s verses by Franci Greyling.

The artists, designers and programmers involved in the presentation of the garden poems also all have ties with the NWU and Potchefstroom. These are people such as Gerrit Jordaan, Thinus Botha, Antoinette Olivier, Wikus Pienaar, Gustaf Tempelhoff, Laim Longland, Lindi Nel, Marcel Smit, Alanka Craffert and Johann Tempelhoff.

The Botanical Garden is open on weekdays between 08:00 and 16:00 – entrance is free.

To be able to experience the poems, one needs a mobile phone or tablet with internet access at hand. Download a QR code reader, scan the QR code on the benches and enjoy the reading experience.

Byderhand (At Hand) is presented by the subject group Creative Writing, Potchefstroom Campus, NWU. The interdisciplinary creative and research project is undertaken in the Research Unit Language and Literature in the South African Context and also forms part of the establishment of digital humaniora at the North-West University.

The project was made possible through the support of writers and artists, the NWU Botanical Garden and Gallery, the Dagbreek Trust, the Research Unit Language and Literature in the South African Context and the subject group Creative Writing in the School of Languages, NWU.

Please visit the project website for more information on the project www.byderhand.net And also watch a video about the project at Clover Aardklop 2015: https://youtu.be/hwaSJmss2W0

The poet, Carina van der Walt (centre), listening to a garden verse with Ju-Mari van der Walt and the visiting Dutch poet, Emma Crebolder.


Map of the Botanical Garden pinpointing the poets

What is a QR code? What is a QR reader?

QR code, abbreviation for Quick Response Code, is the trademark for a two-dimensional barcode. The code was developed in Japan and was initially used in the automotive industry. Nowadays QR codes have many uses, among other things to obtain random access to the internet. Usually a smartphone (or tablet) is used as a QR scanner. To be able to read a QR code, one has to download a QR reader (e.g. QR code reader) onto the mobile device. The scanned code is then converted to a specific format, for example, a URL for a website. Users can create their own QR codes online.

More about the other Byderhand 2015 (At Hand 2015) projects

Haven Stories in the Book Oasis: This subproject comprises short stories and children’s stories by 25 writers and artists, such as Harry Kalmer, Sophia Kapp, Helene de Kock, Roela Hattingh, Nelia Engelbrecht, Frederick J. Botha, Leon de Villiers, Flip Hattingh, Zinelda McDonald and Deon Meiring. All the stories are set in Potchefstroom. Readers received a QR code enabling them to read the story when they placed an order at the coffee shop in the Book Oasis. The haven stories will soon be available in De Jonge Akker on the campus.

The Wandering Story at HTS (Technical High School) was an alternative reading experience for teenagers. The QR codes were affixed at different places on the historical school grounds. Readers scanned the QR codes to follow the story of the two characters, Marni and Bea, on the school grounds. The story was written by Hans du Plessis and developed in collaboration with creative-writing students and the production team. Short video clips are part of the story. A Wandering Story adventure for learners (Afrikaans First Additional Language) of HTS was presented in May 2016.

Taxistrips on the shuttle route – meet Khaya Mtshali’s taxi, packed with characters, along the route. Festivalgoers who used the shuttle service could scan the QR codes in the taxis and “collect” the characters. They could also join the chatting on social media.