In a continuation of a series of lunchtime events, UCT’s Works of Arts Committee (WOAC) invited celebrated artist Willie Bester to join a public conversation around the sculpture of Sarah Baartman that is currently displayed in the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library at UCT.
The sculpture, by Bester, has been on display at UCT for 12 years. Twice in recent years, it has been robed by students as a means of protest. In both instances there were voices celebrating the robing, and counter voices speaking of censorship.
As part of its ongoing attempt to re-curate artwork on the UCT campus, the WOAC called on Bester, together with art historian Dr Nomusa Makhubu, Executive Director of UCT Libraries Gwenda Thomas, President of Convocation Lorna Houston and student Qondiswa James, to explore the history of this artwork and to contemplate a path forward.
Rethinking the role of art at UCT
The existing WOAC was constituted in mid-2017. Since then the committee has developed a series of activities to inform the community about what the curatorial policies currently are at UCT, in order to begin the development of a new policy.
“Together with the curation and the informing of the campus about what we’re doing, we’re also engaged with trying to make apparent, and work with, existing works that may or may not be problematic or difficult – and to open up a discussion to actually receive views and to act on those views,” explained the chair of the committee, Associate Professor Jay Pather.
It was in this spirit that this, the second lunchtime engagement facilitated by the WOAC, took place. The first session was held on 15 March, and kicked off discussions around new visions for and ways of engaging with the UCT art collection.
“This we are quite clear on: that the atmosphere on the campus, with regards to artworks, with regards to symbols, does need to be transformed,” said Pather.
Through the re-curation of spaces, the committee strives for spaces that “better reflect this contemporary moment, and not a moment from the past”, he continued.
Preparing for a rehanging
A cleansing ritual was performed on Thursday, 22 March, at 13:00 in Molly Blackburn Hall. The performance was led by Lulamile Bongo Nikani, together with Nomakrestu Xakathugaga and Babalwa Makwetu. It was curated by Mandla Mbothwe.
The ceremony took place to prepare the space for the rehanging of artwork.
The selection of artworks for this space has been re-curated to celebrate the potential, resilience and future of both individuals and collectives.
The opening of the Molly Blackburn exhibition space will take place on 12 April between 13:00 and 14:00. This event marks the start of a campus-wide rehanging of the UCT art collection.
The work of UCTʼs WOAC is ongoing. These events form part of a programme of Thursday lunchtime performances, debates and interventions coordinated by the WOAC.
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