Grande Provance, 16 June – 28 August 2013.
The Gallery at Grande Provance is pleased to present David Brits’ second solo exhibition, 1969. The show’s title marks the year that Brits’ grandfather led a rescue mission to the most remotely inhabited place in the world, Gough Island. A rocky landmass jutting out of the south Atlantic Ocean, South Africa has maintained a weather station there since 1956.
As commander of what was then the only helicopter equipped vessel in the South African Navy – the SAS Simon van der Stel – his ship was dispatched from Cape Town on a mission to find two missing South African meteorologists. The men had gone on a hike hours before the island was hit by an unexpected and violent storm. Enduring high seas and foul winds, the SAS Simon van der Stel’s journey to the island lasted almost two weeks. After days of searching Gough’s unforgiving terrain, the bodies of the weathermen were eventually found – they had died of exposure several days before.
Taking place at the height of the Cold War, the rescue was a subtle, yet important display of South Africa’s naval capabilities within the strategic Cape Sea Route. In an era of state-controlled media, the Rescue to Gough Island became a media sensation, and in many ways captured South Africa’s collective imagination.
A series of hand rendered dot-matrix drawings based on a small family archive of personal photographs and newspaper clippings relating to that time, 1969 offers both a window into an unusual event from the past, as well as a glimpse into the life of Brits’ grandfather – a man he hardly knew.