It is with profound sorrow that Stellenbosch University (SU) mourns the untimely passing of Prof Elmarie Costandius, a visionary academic and a beacon of inspiration within our community.
Costandius made an indelible mark at SU, said Dr Kathryn Smith, chair of the Visual Arts Department. “She originally joined us as a member of the Visual Communication Design division in 2006 and later spearheaded a unique master's course specialising in Art Education which she led for the past decade.
“Elmarie taught through her research and inspired so many in her commitment to bringing the worlds of academic scholarship, creativity and community engagement closer together. Her work in SU's groundbreaking Shared Humanity course had an enormous impact on students from diverse fields of study, introducing them to the ways in which art and design can forge greater social cohesion. Her influence reached across the entire university, and through the Visual Redress project her legacy is woven into SU's transformation process," Smith said.
Prof Anthony Leysens, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences said Costandius was at the forefront of visual redress and transformation on campus and a valued member of the faculty's transformation committee. “She published extensively and widely on visual redress and social justice and hosted an international conference on visual redress in Africa early in December of 2023 which I opened. This was the last time I saw her. On behalf of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and myself I wish to convey our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family and the Department of Visual Arts," Leysens said.
In 2023, Costandius was unanimously selected for the prestigious Teaching Advancement at Universities (TAU) Fellows Award, a testament to her outstanding commitment to the professionalisation of teaching and learning. Over the past decade, her dedication to the visual redress initiatives at SU resulted in tangible changes to the campus environment, from The Circle sculptures of women to benches adorned with welcoming messages in various South African languages.
Costandius fostered critical dialogue and awareness, emphasizing art-based methodologies to engage students, staff and communities in transformative processes. In 2021 she co-authored a groundbreaking book entitled Evoking transformation: Visual redress at Stellenbosch University with Prof Aslam Fataar who currently heads the Committee for the Institutional Response to the Commission's Recommendations (CIRCoRe) at SU.
Costandius was a distinguished academic with a remarkable record of accomplishments. She studied information design at the University of Pretoria and later completed a master's degree in visual arts at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. She also held a master's from the University of the Western Cape.
She earned her PhD in curriculum studies at SU in 2012, and she has contributed significantly to academia through supervising numerous master's and PhD students. Her extensive publication record, involvement in various research projects and substantial funding secured showcased her unwavering commitment to academic excellence.
Costandius demonstrated a profound dedication to academic service, contributing as an external examiner, journal article reviewer and committee member. Her impact reached beyond the University's borders, with research connections spanning institutions worldwide.
In addition to her academic pursuits, Costandius received multiple teaching awards and played a pivotal role in committees focused on social impact and institutional visual redress. Her influence extended to various international institutions, reflecting a commitment to diverse fields such as sustainable design, critical citizenship and social impact.
“The rectorate of SU had the highest regard for the brilliant contribution of Prof Costandius, especially her work on research-informed and research-informing visual redress at the University, and also broader in higher education, nationally and internationally," added Prof Nico Koopman, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel, on behalf of the SU Rectorate.
SU extends its deepest condolences to Costandius's family, friends, colleagues and students.