It was with a profound sense of loss that the we learned of the death of Shane Petzer, the Social Responsibility Officer from the Magpie Art Collective.
Magpie and the CHR have been engaged in a decade-long arts and education initiative in the Karoo town of Barrydale with partners Net Vir Pret and Handspring Puppet Company. Shane Petzer and Scott Hart established Magpie in 1998. Shane was a significant force in the well-being of Net Vir Pret, always giving generously of his time and imagination. He was immersed in the complex of work and play that have made Magpie and Net Vir Pret each such distinct organisations. Magpie Collective helped to sustain the Barrydale afterschool program. Jane Taylor of the CHR recalls Shane’s generosity of spirit and empathetic nature:
I remember attending an HIV/AIDS talk that Shane gave to school children in Barrydale, speaking with great tenderness and clarity about care: care of oneself; and of one’s loved ones. It was a public conversation delivered with a depth of affection, playfulness and thought.
Shane’s marvelous transgressive personhood (as a Quaker who was also a pioneer for sex workers’ rights) is well known. This is an aspect of his public being and was a significant element of his ethical politics. For many, this great loss will be for the private individual: the man who was, in many ways, a ready companion in the Magpie showroom, where he facilitated conversation and helped to mobilise the relationship between Magpie, the CHR, and Handspring Puppet Company. Shane was a singular being, and the world is now more ordinary without him.
Magpie helped us to explore the ethics of aesthetics, sharing their substantial ecological project through an arts initiative working with recycled materials. Shane’s interventions prompted a lively eye, and a deftness of manual craft, as Magpie engaged in a practice grounded in the benefits of making through manual manipulation. In this way he and Magpie helped to promote a performance art grounded in a puppetry of disposal objects and waste materials. It was also a long-term involvement with the children of Barrydale. This was and continues to be integral to Shane’s vision of renewal and transformation; a kind of practice of materialist transmigration, as abandoned things were given a second chance. The annual Puppetry Parade in Barrydale took place hand-in-hand alongside the lighting of the Christmas lights, a tradition that was established by Magpie but that became integral to the annual program with the CHR and Handspring Puppet Company.
Only a few days before his passing, Shane wrote with great enthusiasm to CHR Founding Director Premesh Lalu, acknowledging ten years of partnership with the community of Barrydale and inviting and expressing hope for future collaboration:
Barrydale has grown culturally through our yearly events – these ingest our growing and evolving pride of who we are becoming. We’ve talked at length about the links between Net Vir Pret, Magpie, Handspring, Ukwanda and other stakeholders and supporters and the exciting role the Centre for Humanities work has played in all of this.
We wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to his close friends and family, and particularly to Scott Hart, who was his partner of many years. We are immensely grateful to have known Shane.