Stellenbosch University's (SU) Division for Social Impact has officially unveiled its much-anticipated visual redress project.
The event to unveil several new campus symbols was attended by, among others, Law Trust Chair in Social Justice at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Law Professor Thuli Madonsela and South African actress Quanita Adams, who are two of the 11 women depicted in a bronze artwork installation outside the Neelsie. Arranged in a circle on a grass embankment next to the Rooiplein, the installation emphasises the dynamic role that women play in conversation.
Also included in this art installation, referred to as “The Circle", are Krotoa/Eva, the Khoi ancestress of many families in South Africa; anti-apartheid activists Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Fatima Meer and Lilian Ngoyi; author and poet Antjie Krog; Wimbledon wheelchair tennis player Kgothatso Montjane; artist and activist Zanele Muhili; and music artist Dope Saint Jude. The 11th woman represents all the other women's voices who are encouraged to participate in the discourse.
Curator of “The Circle", Stephané Conradie from the Department of Visual Arts at SU, said the artwork was a collaborative effort. “The artwork was inspired by an image I saw of a group of indigenous Khoi people sitting in a circle. That image drew my attention because we used to sit here as students during the open Stellenbosch University period. We also thought it was important to foreground women in this project, women who had not had a voice in the past," said Conradie.
She said the artwork was idealistic, but they were hoping that it would become a space where people would come to talk and humble themselves and understand.
The launch took the form of a walkabout, starting outside the IA Perold building where Dr Leslie van Rooi, Senior Director: Social Impact and Transformation, welcomed guests and gave an overview of the visual redress project at SU.
“The visual redress initiative is focussed on changing the University's landscapes in an attempt to remove offensive symbols and introduce new visual symbols that point to a shared history," said Van Rooi.
According to Van Rooi, the University has made a concerted effort to create spaces for dialogue about public symbols and historical figures. “In addition to that, specific committees have been put in place to facilitate University-wide discourse about and approach to public symbols and the naming of buildings," he said.
After the welcome, Van Rooi ushered guests to the various symbols on campus including the welcoming phrases in 15 South African Languages including Braille, Sign Language and San which have been engraved on benches on the Rooiplein. Other symbols visited included the art displays at the library, the map of Die Vlakte community installed at the Arts and Social Science building and the Adam Small theatre.
Van Rooi said the launch of this project was an intentional and structured process of profound change of the University's spaces, people and programme.
Professor Nico Koopman, Vice Rector: Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel at SU, said the project was an innovative installation on the SU campus.
Speaking at the Adams Small theatre, Koopman, stated that transformation was an embedded process at the University which would be implemented in all environments.
“As an institution we are committed to dignity and healing wounds, we are committed to healing justice, to healing freedom and healing reconciliation. Please do not think SU wants to tick boxes in visual redress and transformation; it is part of our journey and part of the institution's journey," he told the audience.