Stellenbosch University (SU) will soon be home to an innovative 13-metre sculptural public artwork – the Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) THINK Bench, a contemporary functional piece designed to celebrate and encourage innovative and collaborative solutions.
The art installation is made possible by Mr GT Ferreira, an RMB Founder and SU alumnus.
A resin replica of the soon to be erected 10-ton concrete bench was placed in front of SU's engineering complex in Banhoek Road in Stellenbosch this week.
“Having co-founded RMB over four decades ago – a brand built on great talent and a legendary values-centred culture – I am still reminded daily of the positive and distinctive power of innovative thinking," explains Ferreira. “While watching the development and placement of this iconic contemporary piece by renowned artist Louis Olivier, I realised how meaningful an edition of this interactive art piece could be in the University context. And being a Maties alumnus, the location for this gift came easily. My hope is that this bench, which seats up to 25 people, will become known as a 'safe space' for exploring and sharing collaborative solutions."
Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, says that the University is on a journey of renewing its institutional culture. “This includes taking a fresh look at what is visually apparent in the spatial layout, visual iconography and visible symbolism on our campuses. The RMB THINK Bench is a well-timed addition to the changing SU landscape."
“The campus community and the public are now invited to engage with this temporary resin installation with a view to thinking-through how the final product could be contextualised locally," explains Dr Leslie van Rooi, Senior Director: Social Impact and Transformation. “Of particular importance is how the current artwork in the form of the letters 'THINK' can be contextualised to incorporate language diversity and how this space can be used for discourse and engagement."
He added that that the work is one of a range of visual redress projects currently underway. “Art installations of this nature contributes to transforming our spaces to be welcoming, inclusive and increasingly diverse as envisaged in the University's Vision 2040 and Strategic Framework 2019–2024."
The interactive sculpture that could host more than 20 students, seated, is a replica of a greater edition in concrete commissioned by RMB, the first of which was installed on the RMB Think Precinct at its Sandton headquarters in Johannesburg and now a recognisable landmark in Sandton. The THINK Bench project was inspired by RMB's vision to be part of an initiative to unlock creative and innovative energy in prominent places of 'fearless thinking' around the country.
The first concrete edition was unveiled on the Hatfield Campus of the University of Pretoria in August 2019.
“The bench spells out the word 'THINK' from one side, while another perspective reveals life-sized human silhouettes in different thinking poses," explains RMB's Creative Counsel Carolynne Waterhouse. “It acts as a reflective reminder to students passing by that sometimes one needs to change one's perspective to think differently, at RMB we call this 'solutionist thinking'."
RMB wanted to find a way for young talent to congregate and contribute through having conversations that matter. The bench was designed by artist Louis Olivier and his team from the Workhorse Bronze Foundry in Johannesburg. “During my art career spanning two decades to date, this colossal piece stands out as a good example of the infinite possibilities that are ignited by collaboration," says Olivier.
Waterhouse adds: “Renaissance artist Raphael's The School of Athens served as inspiration to the initial team of Louis Olivier, Nkhensani Rihlampfu and Allen Laing. This group of young artists embraced the link between the imagined School of Athens fresco which features the 'greatest thinkers of all time', and the learning and thinking spaces that universities are.
ABOUT RAND MERCHANT BANK
Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) is a leading corporate and investment bank and part of one of the largest financial services groups (by market capitalisation) in Africa – FirstRand Limited. We offer our clients innovative, value-added advisory, funding, trading, corporate banking and principal investment solutions.
As the corporate and investment banking arm of FirstRand, we have access to a network of banks in 10 African countries, as well as representative offices in Kenya, Angola and China, and branches in the UK and India.
RMB believes in art (in all its diverse forms) as a universal language. It has no boundaries and has the ability to capture the spirit of time, transform lives, impact the economy and unite societies. Unlike sport, in art there are no losers – everyone wins. The RMB Fund supports organisations in the disciplines of music, dance, drama, visual art and heritage to develop talent, empower artists and unlock social transformation. The bank also creates powerful platforms to provide easy access to art, develop and showcase artists and elevate art collecting across a wider, more diverse market to strengthen the Creative Economy.
Another key focus is the attraction of young talent through the Minds that Matter graduate campaign.
For more information please visit: www.rmb.co.za