THS. Pathways

  • PATHWAYS OF TAXI HAND SIGNS 

    Artistic Intent

     

    The taxi hand gestures in the artwork reflect the frenetic energy of the taxi industry. They are arranged to suggest pathways in every direction, emulating the underlying planned routes and spontaneous diversions of taxi drivers to reach their destinations timeously. This limited edition print is an enlargement and re-interpretation drawn from an original artwork made of teabag paper, glue, ink and paint.

     

    Title of work: Pathways of taxi hand signs.

    Medium: Ink on Cotton Rag paper.

    Size: W 110cm x H 130cm [Without Frame].

    Date of production: 28/07/2019

    Edition 5.

    Year:  2019

  • Taxi Hand Signs

    Art Exhibition by Susan Woolf at the South African Jewish Museum.

     

    The emergence of taxi hand signs, the use of which is concentrated in Gauteng, is linked inextricably to a part of black urban existence and the pain of a history of injustice. Today, many people can be seen using taxi hand signs to gain access in, around or out of the city. They signal on streets and pavements and in taxi ranks, in rural and urban areas alike all over South Africa . While this successful, silent, inclusive and positive means of communication between commuters and taxi drivers is so prevalent, the actual documentation of it has till now mostly been overlooked.

     

    Susan Woolf is a professional artist who has used her career in art to communicate and challenge. She began to document the taxi hand signs used by commuters in 2004, As she saw them enacted on the streets of Johannesburg. Conscious of her position as an ‘outsider’, knowing that people whose daily lives incorporate taxi hand signs for practical and life sustaining purposes will have substantially different narrations, Woolf was meticulous in recording her research for historical use. In researching the signs, she met with commuters and taxi drivers in taxi ranks, in townships, with taxi associations and on the streets. Her investigation revealed the potency of these gestures especially because the narratives that formed their shape and content reflected the environment locally and cultures specific to South Africa. Woolf’s resultant paintings (today of over fifty signs) of recognisable coloured gloves enables prejudice-free commuter communication for people of diverse races, cultures, classes and languages.

     

    It was noticeable too that many people who are blind use taxi hand signs to hail a taxi. This encouraged Woolf to invent a simple tactile shape language, an easily learned tool for people who are blind to accurately gesture the taxi sign needed to show taxi drivers the desired dest