The Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria (UP) marks its centenary this year, and recently celebrated this milestone with a Dean’s Concert at UP’s Musaion, a concert hall for musicians. The occasion also recognised another milestone, the launch of the School of the Arts, which brings the former departments of Music, Drama and Visual Arts into a single school.
Various performers took to the stage, including the internationally acclaimed pianist Dr Ben Schoeman, a Steinway artist and senior music lecturer in music; Dr Hanli Stapela, who leads the classical voice programme in the school; student and mezzo-soprano artist Monica Mhangwana; singer and vocal coach Mxolisi Duda; and theatre performer and production manager Phuti Matuba, to name a few.
The UP Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gerben Grooten, provided the harmony and accompaniment for a musical journey depicting lost love, new love, personal and collective human agendas that overcome suffering and celebrating life.
“The Faculty of Humanities has been at the centre of the university’s development and growth over the past century, not only at the level of the academic project, but also in the way in which the university is embedded in the community and broader society,” Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said.
“The faculty is at the forefront of contributing to the university’s strategic objectives of conducting research that is locally relevant and internationally recognised, promoting diversity, and optimising opportunities for impacting the socioeconomic conditions of its students and broader society. The creative and cultural is of central importance.”
Between 1919 and 2019 the Faculty of Humanities has had 16 deans. In 1930 UP received university status, and the faculty has since awarded more than 4 500 master’s degrees and 1 216 doctorates (including honorary doctorates).
“With humble beginnings in a very different context, the Faculty of Humanities has evolved, and is still evolving,” said Faculty Dean Professor Vasu Reddy. “We are being shaped by a diverse community of scholars, teachers, researchers, students, practitioners, artists and support staff. I believe our developing identity is a strength: it enables us to reflect on the past, but also directs us to the future in aspirational ways.”
Prof Reddy adds that this year’s centenary is an opportunity to reflect on what the faculty has achieved, and to find ways to support, improve and expand its academic and creative projects to best serve the university and the country.
The faculty’s vision encompasses fostering creativity, promoting social justice and facilitating scholarship that advance the transformation of local and global communities. This, in turn, is sustained by a mission that views the humanities as a field to be fostered in a research-intensive context through collaboration, exchange and funded scholarly/creative projects that result in lifelong learning among staff, students and broader society.
Prof Reddy said, “To advance the knowledge domain also requires of us to recognise the role of the creative. This is what artists also do: they question and gather evidence to try to make sense of the world and then create something new. Our colleagues in the School of Arts are artist citizens on the frontlines, armed with the power of images, of words, of sound, of movement, and of ideas to share our vision.”
“Today, we look back on a century of academic and creative excellence in this faculty, while fully aware of the imperfections and inequities that governed a significant part of this century.”
Winnie Senoamadi, Chairperson of House Humanities 2018/19, says the faculty has focused on third-stream income, opening up opportunities for exciting new research areas on subjects such as the role of the public intellectual within society, decolonisation and world inequalities. Postgraduate scholarship opportunities have also increased within the faculty to encourage students to further their studies.