On 5 December 2018, Stellenbosch University's prestigious art exhibition in commemoration of the institution's Centenary opened at the Stellenbosch University Museum under the title “Forward? Forward! Forward...". This unique group festival exhibition emphasises the important role of art with the theme of the future of higher education.
The event was opened by the Rector and Vice-chancellor of Stellenbosch University, prof Wim de Villiers. “The forward-looking theme of this exhibition is close to my heart. At my inauguration in April 2015, I said I am a proud Matie alumnus. But I know all too well that the University of today is not the University of yesterday, and nor will it – or should it be – the University of tomorrow. Life is dynamic; nothing stays the same, which means that we have the exciting opportunity of constantly changing, constantly transforming ourselves. So, that's what we need to focus on – moving forward. I called on the University community to move “forward together" and undertook to make this the main thrust of my time in office."
The exhibition includes the work of more than sixty artists that address the future of higher education, locally and in Africa, and re-imagining the future of Stellenbosch University.
The exhibition is the result of an open call to artists and more than 250 innovative and compelling proposals, serving as catalysts for debate and engagement with the future of the university and education, were submitted. These proposals were adjudicated by a panel consisting of Ashley Walters, Robyn-Leigh Cedras, Maurice Mbikayi, Ulrich Wolff and Elizabeth Miller-Vermeulen.
According to the curators, Ulrich Wolff and Elizabeth Miller-Vermeulen, the response has delivered an intriguing range of exciting works, touching numerous themes in a variety of media.
Artists interpreted the forward-thinking theme to address such issues as identity and cultural perspectives, mentorship, literacy, fields of knowledge, human-to-human connectivity, language, campus power structures and social systems.
Creative expressions include installations, painting, collage, drawing, photography, video, short film, animation, print media, sculpture and performance art.
According to prof De Villiers, “we are now turning our gaze to the future. As we enter our second century as a public university, this exhibition helps us think about the future of Stellenbosch University and higher education, broadly speaking, on our continent. We recently adopted a new vision for the University, which is to become 'Africa's leading research-intensive university, globally recognised as excellent, inclusive and innovative, where we advance knowledge in service of society'.
“I want to thank the contributing artists. As Edgar Degas said, 'Art is not what you see, but what you make others see'. Thank you for sharing your work with us and thereby expanding our vision of what going 'forward together' asks of us."
As part of the evening's proceedings, a panel discussion took place with Dr Morne Mostert, Director of the Institute for Futures Research at SU, Prof Lize van Robbroeck, Professor of Visual Arts and Vice-Dean: Arts at SU, and Mr Ashley Walters, Lecturer in Photography and New Media at SU. The panel concurred that art is a universal language that gives expression to what it means to be 'human'. While artists look back, they also look forward, which allows us to the see future through the lens of artists. The stimulation offered by art as well as the curiosity attached thereto, is essential. The spectators of art also contribute to the message it portrays.
A commemorative catalogue by the Stellenbosch University Museum which will be published in February 2019, will augment the exhibition.
As part of a transformative/collaborative concept, essays by authors from the Institute for Futures Research, under the direction of Dr Mostert, will inform the art of “Forward? Forward! Forward..." and extending the vital debate around the futuristic theme in this Centenary year.
Artists taking part include Zyma Amien, Willem Boshoff, Chris Soal, Sthenjwa Luthuli, Liza Grobler, Lhola Amira, Johann Louw, Jaco van Schalkwyk, Tangeni Kambudu, Emma Willemse, Willie Bester, Gordon Froud, Stephané E. Conradie, Victor Mofukeng, Dan Halter, Ingrid Bolton, Conrad Botes, Sharlé Matthews, Heleen de Haas and Ley Mboramwe Makalele collaboration, Claudette Schreuders, Lehlohonolo Mkhasibe, Hannalie Taute, Strijdom van der Merwe, Ashley Walters, Sinalithemba Ntuli, Tamlin Blake, Ilené Bothma, Lhola Amira , Norman O`Flynn, Jaco Sieberhagen, Lunga Kama, Pierre le Riche, Ydi Coetsee, Spier Arts Academy and Marlise Keith collaboration, Anya Ramparsad , Thabo Motseki, Heidi Fourie and Jessica Storm Kapp.
- “Forward? Forward! Forward..." will continue until 30 April 2019.
- For more information contact: Ulrich Wolff (021 808 3029) or Elizabeth Miller-Vermeulen (083 700 9669).
Photos by Danie Nel.