top of page

THE FUTURE WE CHOOSE                                                                         

Screenshot 2020-06-22 at 15.59.58.png


Lockdown has provided a lens and an opportunity to change and take action to address climate issues urgently. The subject of the artwork expresses aspects of the lockdown with regards to water scarcity. The focus is on desperately poor communities in South Africa and the frenzy around shared access to water and where social distancing is difficult. The artwork shows a recreated broken tap with a nail and wire replacing the missing tap handle. It symbolises both the inventiveness and desperation to access water.

Selected taxi hand signs - an innovation that grew also out of a desperate need, in this case for transport - are included amongst the other hand gestures. Especially where meanings of a sign draws attention to relevant social situations, which  may be aligned lockdown. Problems with social distancing echo the situation of gathering around a communal tap to access water. This extends to the taxi industry which exacerbates the problem of infecting others.

A bat in the artwork is shaped by gestures. The spread of diseases like Covid 19 are almost always because people have encroached into the territory of animals. Out of 1400 species of bats, it is believed that one bat may pass Covid 19 to humans through an ‘intermediate’ host known as the Pangolin.

Mixed Media -  Glue, Pastel, watercolour

and ink on watercolour paper.

Size: L 48.5cm x W 43.5cm.

The Future We Choose - 2 numbered-Taxi h
Screenshot 2020-06-22 at 16.00.09.png


A bat semi hidden, in the artwork, is shaped by gestures.

The spread of diseases like Covid 19 are almost always

because people have encroached into the territory of

animals. Out of 1400 species of bats, it is believed that

one bat may pass Covid 19 to humans through an ‘

intermediate’ host known as the Pangolin.

Detail 1 of The Future We Choose lowres

Title inspired by the Book 'The Future We Choose' by
Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett- Carnac.



​1     Hands cupped to drink water or ask for food.

2    In this taxi hand sign (THS) the bottom hand moves back and forth to indicate going to a place underground -Under a bridge, for example.  Also shows going underground during a crises.


3     Having little money or resources, it’s called ‘Petrol Money’ by taxi drivers. The commuter needs a lift but has little money - Read more in the Artist's Statement on TIME & PETROL MONEY.


4     Represents the plight of animals (To Grahamstown, horns in taxi lingo). Refers in the artwork to human interference with animals/nature causing diseases like corona virus and resulting in climate change worldwide.  -  Also known as The Clever Sign silent language in Soweto that has 149 meanings.


5     Many taps in townships are broken or have parts stolen. Innovative residents desperate for water, reinvent found objects to make taps/toilets/objects functional.

6     Protective hands. Individuals take extraordinary measures to help others.

7      Hands cupped to catch desperately needed water.

8     Gestures combine to create an bat.


9     The cupped fingers sign to Orange Farm (palm up), form an  ‘absent’ Orange (or food and water). The same sign (palm down) is used to hail a taxi to the Mall (Fingers reflect various shops). Some shops are still banned during Lockdown Extension 3 SA.                            

10    Sign to Pollsmoor Prison. Covid 19’s rapid spread in S.A prisons resulted in riots and the release of 19000 prisoners.    

11      The taxi sign to Kliptown says ‘slow down it stinks’ referring to the social situation whereby massive amounts of garbage has not been removed.

12     Begging hands - Hungry people reserve their spot at Stop streets and Traffc lights .

13     A Taxi hand sign points backwards (Bree Metro Mall to Meodowlands).  In this artwork it points to the past. Will the world as we know it change? Will we look back to choose a different future going forward?

14     This ‘Short Left' taxi sign indicates where the passenger wants to get off.  Taxi sign  (number 13 and 14 together beg this question - Will isolation during Lockdown encourage people to rethink the future and make changes needed going forward? Will we slip backwards into the same way of behaviour before Covid 19? What future will we choose?

15     This Taxi hand sign is to Marabastad. A respected taxi operator was murdered there. The bottom hand moves in a cutting action. Covid 19 continues to ‘cut short’ many lives.  It has also caused the loss of many livelihoods and the subsequent dearth of economies in countries worldwide.

16    Hands held close to the heart show deeply felt emotions. Feelings run deep when living in lockdown. .       


Screenshot 2020-06-22 at 15.23.36.png

DETAIL of Petrol Money

The rooster wakes us up every early morning and reminds us of the new day. He is our timekeeper especially in Lockdown, when with our disrupted schedules, one day seems to melt into the other. The rooster spreads his wings out in a ‘ready to fight’ stance, reminding us of our fight against the virus and survival during this crises. In South Africa, Stage 3 of Lockdown has opened up the workplace to many who’s families have experienced going hungry. Many people rely on minibus taxis for transport.

Prominent in the artwork is the Taxi hand sign with fingers bent and the hand held upwards, thumb and index finger pinched together tightly. This is a request to the minibus taxi driver. They need a lift, but only have a little money. Not enough to pay the fare. Taxi drivers who have space in their vehicle stop to pick them up. They call the few coins they collect, Petrol Money.



The Petrol Money taxi hand sign encourages a WIN WIN situation reflecting how people can work together to each’s advantage. It’s the formula heralded in the quote below from the book “The Future We Choose” about surviving the climate crises:

                                            "Giving is well known to increase individual happiness, so my ‘loss’ can actually become my 'gain'.                                                                                        In fact, ‘my loss' > 'your ‘gain’ can actually become ‘our gain".  

                                            Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac (69:2020).                                                                                                                                    


Screenshot 2020-06-22 at 16.00.35.png
Screenshot 2020-06-22 at 16.00.45.png

     “There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates                       you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic,                                    and still others when it is a poison that makes you                  beat your head against the wall”

French author Sidonie Gabriella Colette, Nobel Prize nominee for Literature (1948).

The cause of the lockdown originates in the human destruction of the natural world.  Yet when we are forced to be locked down many people have suddenly found a connection and interest in the natural world. The problem of climate change that was for so many people, a distant conversation, for others to solve, has suddenly been brought right to our doorstep and into our homes. Indeed the whole world.

 This artwork completed during the Corvid 19 lockdown situation, deals with the extreme isolation that older people in particular must endure. Living in London, the person who purchased this artwork told me,  “I think of my Mom who does not have social media or anything like that and who is and was, very reliant on face to face social interaction”.


Many elderly people are suddenly completely alone and being forced to spend more time with themselves and their immediate world, particularly that part of it that is closest to them, like birds, chickens or squirrels. The purchaser recounted his recent call to his elderly mother living in the USA, who had been telling him about the squirrels eating her plants on her small patio!--> read next   -->


 I have always made use of areas of empty spaces in an artwork. I love the work of Spanish artist Francesco Goya (late 18th and early 19th centuries), who spoke about the power of suggestion, saying that in art it is more important to know what to leave out than what to put in. Empty spaces emphasise what is present and what is absent.


In ‘Lockdown Granny and Rooster’ , completed during a period of self-isolation, which ran into lockdown, the room that the granny is sitting in is empty. There are no other objects apart from the chair. There is no limit to our imagination as to what else could be there or what could be missing. There are no children or grandchildren. Only the rooster is present to keep the granny company. That is the irony of it all. No one knows, aside from pangolins, which other creatures may now carry the virus.

Media: Glue and shoepolish on board.. Eye and face makeup. Thr rooster is painted

with watercolour.

Size: W 16cm x H 17cm

PATHWAYS OF TAXI SIGNS                             Handmade Rooibos Teabag paper

Screenshot 2020-06-22 at 16.08.34.png

PATHWAYS (BELOW).  Reconfigured.Enlarged. Limited Edition of 5.

Individually printed on Cotton Rag paper.




PATHWAYS OF TAXI SIGNS (Original on Rooibos Teabag Paper)


PATHWAYS - Limited edition of- Size: large at H 1 Meter 200 x 1 Meter (Below Left)

Commuters often refer to minibus taxi drivers as ‘isandlele zamagondwane” which means in Zulu that many drivers are much like rats when they scurry off in every direction.


The taxi hand signs are arranged to suggest pathways in every direction, emulating the routes and spontaneous diversions of taxi drivers to reach their destinations timeously.

These reflect the frenetic, often chaotic, powerful taxi industry and the millions of commuters that use this transport ‘lifeline’.


BLUE LINES: Underlying this is a MAP of blue lines that echoes the pathways that can be traced showing the pointing hands in every direction (Find it below. The meanings of the taxi signs are available on request for the buyer).


Pertinent to the chaos of Corvid 19 and sudden lockdown being experienced are a sudden drop in the many often fatal accidents on the roads. Notably too are the sudden dearth of carbon emissions that poison our air and are responsible for many illness like Corvid 19 that affect our lungs. Most concerning during this time is the difficulty in keeping social distance both in the taxi ranks and in the often crowded taxis themselves.


(Original on Rooibos Teabag Paper)

Medium: Ink, glue, penci, water colour on Rooibos teabag paper.

Size: W 72 cm x H 72 cm [Framed].



Medium: Printed on cotton rag paper

Size: H 120 cm x W 100 cm.



            Jack Ginsburg

Artists contribute to Book for Jack


Narratives associated with some of these Taxi signs are provided with the Artworks.




Taxi hand signs are an informal gestural system, an evolving form of communication between commuters and taxi drivers. Many have narratives associated with them. Woolf has used the taxi hand signs and simple graphic shapes from the shape system she designed for people who are blind, to create artworks that are ‘puzzle narratives. The artworks extend the possibilities of an alternative pictorial language. The blind symbols and taxi hand signs talk to each other, inviting other possible narratives and meanings in the context of South Africa’s social and political landscape. Below are some examples of the narratives associated with taxi hand signs.

Media: Limited Edition Prints on Etching Paper.

PRICE: Sold individually R 5000

BOX SET OR 5 [R4000 each] R 20 000


bottom of page