More than 300 photographs were submitted by UP staff and students from across South Africa to the #UPStaySafe competition launched by UP Archives, which required entrants to document their experience under lockdown.
The idea, according to Professor Karen Leigh Harris, Head of the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies and Director of UP Archives, was to “capture moments in time in these unprecedented months to preserve them for future generations”. The submissions – which included photos of how people were staying healthy, of life pre-COVID-19, the experience of loneliness and working from home – are a unique window into the experiences of individuals that depict both the fears and frustrations, but also the hope and humanity during a time when we have to uphold social distancing measures in order to stay safe.
The panel of judges – which included the Registrar, the Directors of the Department of Institutional Advancement and the UP Library, a curatorial assistant of the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria (Javett-UP), an academic administrator and a UP archivist – were hard-pressed to decide on the winners. In the end, there was a tie for both the staff and student categories. As regards the overall winner there was a deadlock, and so the Vice-Chancellor Professor Tawana Kupe was called in to make a final decision. And here the winners are:
The overall winning submission is Nokuthula Malinga (R5 000); the two best UP student submissions are awarded to Ruvimbo Musiyarira (R2 500) and Khonzile Mabena (R2 500); and the two winners of the best UP staff submissions are Godfrey Mufumadi (R2 500) and Nico Botes (R2 500).
OVERALL WINNER: Nokuthula Malinga, Theology and Religion student. Malinga said with her winning submission she wanted “to show that despite loadshedding or anything that may affect my education, I will still be studying”.
The ten runner-up photos were submitted by Sieraaj Ahmed, Ashlin Bheemraj, Allen Compaan, Oatlegile Ditshego, Matete Mangena, Alison Ridel, Regina Sithole, Cindy Tshalata, Ilse Wepener and Mitch Williams.
The photographs will be preserved in the UP Archives for reference and research purposes, much like the recollections of the Spanish flu of 1918 when UP also closed its doors. All the photos will be exhibited at the Javett-UP when it reopens. “The Javett-UP is privileged to be associated with exhibiting the winners and photographic works of the UP Archives #StaySafe competition, which records aspects of the human condition during the COVID-19 lockdown as experienced by students and staff,” says interim CEO Dr Samuel Isaacs. “This helps us to understand the lived experiences and to reimagine other futures during these anxious times.”
BEST UP STUDENT SUBMISSION: Khonzile Mabena, BA Education student. “This picture depicts life within the lockdown and adhering to the government rules of staying at home,” said Mabena who is among thousands of students who have had to stay away from campuses to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
BEST UP STUDENT SUBMISSION: Ruvimbo Musiyarira, MAdmin Public Management and Policy student. “Sometimes when you're tutoring, you bake. No one would ever know!” Musiyarira labelled her fun submission.
BEST UP STAFF SUBMISSION: Godfrey Mufumadi, Security Services staff member. “On duty during lockdown,” says Mufumadi who has been working on campus to continue ensuring the safety of staff and students allowed on campus during the lockdown.
BEST UP STAFF SUBMISSION: Nico Botes, Department of Architecture staff member. “Masked Laundry,” Botes has titled his submission featuring what has become a very important part of life in the face of COVID-19.
As the memory bank of the University, the Archives has as its mandate to not only collect official records but also other material that reflect on the nature of the institution. These include, among others, the student magazines, societies and associations as well as memories written by both students and staff. UP Archives has also received and is preserving other material regarding COVID-19, such as official announcements, UP’s role in investigating the pandemic, community assistance, student appreciation on receiving devices, frustrations with connectivity and staff problems with online teaching and learning. These are all part of the experiences of what make up a university.
The uncertainty is certain, the way forward uncertain – but we do know that this too will pass, and that one day we will reflect on these days.
Professor Karen Leigh Harris is Head of the Department Historical and Heritage Studies, and the Director of UP Archives in Faculty of Humanities.