A symbolical journey

Wilna’s symbolical journey within the Jungian framework portrays inner images as active imagination and art, through the medium of oil and also in writing.

She views the creative space as the sacred space between psyche and reality, and the canvas as a living mirror, relaying meaningful truth.

The 2016 exhibition, UCT Irma Stern Museum, Cape Town

This exhibition included work spanning 25 years of inner life in image. The exhibition was opened by Amanda Botha, Capetonian art journalist and writer. It also coincided with the Africa Day celebrations held annually by the University of Cape Town.

Carl Jung says in Memories, Dreams, Reflections p.340:

The need for mythic statements is satisfied when we frame a view of the world which adequately explains the meaning of human existence in the cosmos, a view which springs from our psychic wholeness, from the co-operation between conscious and unconscious. Meaninglessness inhibits fullness of life and is therefore equivalent to illness. Meaning makes a great many things endurable – perhaps everything.


Symbolism and Consciousness in Art

The zebra-fish at the ISM.

THE ZEBRA-FISH came to me in a dream. It symbolises the greater mystery of life, both inside and outside me. It unites above and below, masculine and feminine, coldblooded and warmblooded, the opposites. It stands for wholeness, and it brings hope. I have to learn to relate to this mystery to find meaning in life and my own right place. It contained and inspired me. It took me 20 years to complete this image. This work is 1.8 x 1.9 m, oil on canvas on board.

THE WHITE MAN is the masculine principle in man and woman alike. When he is out of balance, he is patriarchal, perfectionistic and controlling, but when in balance he represents integrity and strength. He is also the yang force and is represented by the white lines in THE ZEBRA-FISH. He is seen at the fire of his own transformation.

THE MARY MAGDALENE is his feminine counterpart. Together they form the inner couple, he is the sun, the culture, she is the beautiful moon, nature. In our culture and in our lives she is suppressed and wounded. She is the yang force and the black lines in THE ZEBRA-FISH.

SPLIT FEMININITY, MARY MAGDALENE AND BARBIE, oil on canvas board 55 x 70 cm

SPLIT FEMININITY, MARY MAGDALENE AND BARBIE is the eye of the Mary Magdalene, what she sees, the wound: mother and daughter are personifications of inner opposites, forever in conflict and restoring the relationship; that is the normal process by which one grows toward maturity, but they are sealed off, as if in an egg, and the process of inner growth is hampered. That is the wound.

SOPHIA Mixed media on board 142 x 123 cm 1994-2014

SOPHIA stands for the wisdom of nature as opposed to the power of the patriarchal culture. She is the true containing power. The light falls upon the gorilla, the instinctual aspect of human nature. His left hand is upon the shoulder of Sophia: is he pressing her down, or is he her right arm? The urge to suppress nature has to change to the instinctive support of one’s own true nature, a long and uncomfortable time in the fire. In this way Sophia is gradually growing back into her rightful place, her message to the patriarchate.

THE KING OR STRIDER is the king who lost all and has to be restored to his rightful heritage. In THE ZEBRA-FISH, he is the sangoma at the edge of the water who has the vision that has to be conveyed to the conscious personality.

THE MULBERRY WOMAN is born from the tree, from her ear, for I am born through hearing myself. Yet, she is also the tree. She goes down into the underworld, she suffers it through, and brings new growth with the new spring. She goes up and down, restoring the lost connection between above and below, overbridging the divide.

THE BRIDGE oil on stretched canvas 176 x 246 cm 1996 – 2016

THE BRIDGE is the end of a time, as opposed to the dawn of a new period in THE ZEBRA-FISH. The stones are a collective sacred place; one has to claim back one’s own sacred stone, one’s connection to life. That is the bridge.  It is also the place of the Mother, of death and birth: through self-acceptance, the boat, the vehicle and vessel of the process, may become the boat of the vagina and birth. The middle stone is the middle way.

THE WAY oil on canvas board 53 x 125 cm 1999 – 2003

THE WAY is the seeking and the struggle to restore the relationship to the mystery of one’s own life.  Eventually one may find that one’s modern life is contained by an ancient myth of death and becoming, the process of individuation. A meaningful worldview may contain one’s suffering and pain, allowing one to see oneself and one’s problems from a different, more objective, standpoint.

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About the artist

The artist entered the world of art through an unusual experiment with creative play in an attempt to discover the ‘inner other’, treating the canvas consciously as a mirror.

In those early years she had no guidance, but insisted instead on keeping this sacred space free of external influences. This in-between space, the space between heaven and earth, the space visited by shaman and artist alike since the dawn of the human race, is the cradle of all creativity. No serious artwork can be produced without engagement with the sacred side of being, or without a personal struggle with one’s own demons.

Art becomes a mirror image for the viewer to gain insight into the psychic journey of the self, as well as that of the artist, defining the viewer’s aesthetic, emotional engagement with the work.  

~Amanda Botha, Irma Stern Museum 2016


2016: The old woman and the moon, Irma Stern Museum, Cape Town

2017: Dream now, dream not,  group exhibition The Cape Gallery

2018: Stories of a life, Breytenbach Centre, Wellington

2018: Surface and Interface, group exhibition, The Cape Gallery: 18 June – 21 July

2019: To Dream the Impossible Dream, group exhibition, The Cape Gallery: 4 – 29 July

In the news

A bird’s eye-view of South African art, DeKat May/June 2016, p. 39

Amanda Botha at the Irma Stern Museum.

In Wilna van der Walt’s work she gives expression to the inner consciousness of healing powers that find expression in the creative fervency. Here it has to do with the activation of the practice of art to stimulate the subconscious to find expression in an image and a striving for purification.

The exhibition, The old woman and the Moon,in the Irma Stern Museum in Rosebank, Cape Town, represents the symbolic journey of the artist, which takes her along uncharted paths within the Jungian context. She opens herself to tell her story on canvas within the rich chaos of inner perceptions.

Her palette becomes the medium and her canvas the reportage of her psychic journey, and the answer to her continuous inner dialogue. Like the writer Milan Kundera, she finds in her work ‘the unbearable lightness’, and she can turn her ‘sunflowers’ to the light like Vincent van Gogh. Each of these paintings has its own life – a part of the greater puzzle of truths that form part of a wider cosmic understanding. The exhibition runs from 14 May until 6 June. ~ Amanda Botha, art journalist and writer.

Read Amanda’s opening speech at Irma Stern Museum