Artwork 4 the Week

October 2020

 

Week 29 - Architecture as artistic inspiration

Red Lion Square, 1936 
Gregoire Boonzaier (1909 - 2005) 
Oil on canvas
660mm x 910mm 

At the age of 25, Boonzaier (1909 – 2005) went to study at the Heatherley School of Art in London. Boonzaier painted this urban scene of Red Lion Square during this time. The scene depicts a lively day in the square with people, cars and animals going about their business. Red Lion Square is rich in history. The square, named after the local pub, Red Lion (Lyon) Inn, was part of a pitched battle and was home to several distinguished people, including William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. On one of the buildings in the painting, the words and title of a shop, Toye & Co (now Toye, Kenning and Spencer), are visible.  The shop is a long-run family business of manufacturing Masonic regalia for the Royal family, regalia for friendly societies and other organisations. 

This painting of Red Lion Square was donated to the University of Pretoria by the artist after his exhibition at the university’s MacFayden Memorial Hall in 1950. Boonzaier is well known for his impressionistic style of portraits, landscapes and still life paintings. The artist was inspired by the works of Moses Kotler, Nita Spilhaus and Peter Wenning, who were friends with his cartoonist father Daniël Cornelis (DC) Boonzaier. He began to explore a career as an artist in his teens and was already an established artist in his early twenties. Boonzaier’s contribution to art and society in South Africa was immense: he was an exponent of the Cape Impressionism Movement, a member and the chairperson of the New Group and also an active protester against the apartheid regime.

 

Week 28 - The Union Buildings on Meintjieskop

Unie Paleis Agter (Crane from the Union Buildings series), 1912 
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (1886 - 1957) 
Oil on canvas
276mm x 341mm 

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (1886 – 1957) is one of South Africa’s most iconic landscape painters of all time. He made artworks in a variety of media including oil paint, gouache, watercolour, casein paint, linocuts and etchings – all highly collectable. Between 1910 and 1913, Pierneef made a series of works featuring the construction of the Union Buildings on Meintjieskop in Pretoria. The building is one of the most important landmarks in Pretoria and in South Africa. The oil painting, Unie Paleis Agter (1912), depicts the construction of the Union Buildings from behind. The work is one of Pierneef’s earlier works as it was painted in an impressionistic style with large expressive mark making and not in flat planes such as his most well-known style of painting.

In the painting, the construction of the Union Buildings seems to be nearly completed as the red roof tiles are in place. From the artist’s viewpoint, one only sees a small area of flora present within his gaze. Meintjieskop was one of Pierneef’s most loved places to visit as a means to explore his artistic creativity within the natural beauty of this landscape. During 1905 and 1948, the artist created over seventy works of Meintjieskop. By this number alone, one can appreciate the significance and importance of this landscape for the artist. Pierneef was not pleased by the erection of the Union Buildings on Meintjieskop, as it not only destroyed the natural landscape he loved so much, but to him it also represented as a symbol of British Imperialism within the country. A series of Union Building works were donated to the University of Pretoria’s art collection as a set by the artist’s daughter in the 1980s.

 

Week 27 - Architecture as an Art Form at the UP Museums

The Old Arts Building and the Old Merensky Building
The University of Pretoria Main Campus
 

Monday 05 October 2020 marked the international celebration of “World Architecture Day”.  The UP Museums support this initiative, especially since the museums are located on the Hatfield Main Campus of the University of Pretoria in two iconic architectural and nationally declared heritage buildings.  The buildings in themselves provide evidence that architecture is another form of art, as such they are ideally located to exhibit the university’s art and heritage collections.  

Construction of the Old Arts Building commenced in 1910.  It was completed a year later and officially opened in August 1911 by General Jan Smuts to house the then Transvaal University College (TUC).  Designed by Percy Eagle in the Baker School, the symmetrical design of the building with its stained-glass windows, Oregon Pine floors, slate staircases and wooden clock tower reminds onlookers of the Union Buildings due to the Cape Dutch and Neo-Romanesque architectural elements employed in both structures.  The Old Arts Building was declared as a national monument in 1968 and houses various galleries of the University of Pretoria Museums.

The other museum building, known as the Old Merensky Building, was constructed in October 1937 and completed in April 1939.  The original intention of the building to house the university’s library is evident from the outside, as the architect Gerhard Moerdyk designed it to reflect an open book.  A part of the funds for the building was donated by Hans Merensky, who discovered Platinum in South Africa. The other part was donated by the Pretoria Jewish Community – their contribution is evident my means of the Stars of David included into the interior design of the structure.  Moreover, due to the architectural and structural similarities, this building is known as the unofficial forerunner of the Voortrekker Monument.  With elements of Art Deco, Neo-Classicism, Cape Dutch, Regency and African Architecture incorporated into the design of the building, it was declared as national monument in 1990.  Today, it houses and exhibits the majority university’s sculpture collection with works by Edoardo Villa, Anton van Wouw, Sydney Khumalo and Noria Mabaso.

 

September 2020

 

Week 26 - Memory, Identity and Heritage

Giraffe, 1995 
Kunyanda Shikamo (b 1954) 
Acrylic on canvas
535mm x 645mm

Giraffe is a work of art created by the San artist Kunyanda Shikamo, who was born in 1954 in Mucusso, Angola. It is in Angola where Shikamo’s father taught her conventional skills used by the Khwe people. Her grandmother also told her stories of the Khwe people and of her culture. During the wars in Angola in the 1970s and 1980s, Kunyanda fled to Omega, Namibia, where she met her husband, before settling at Schmidtsdrift, South Africa in 1990. Shikamo, a Khwe artist expanded her professional art career when she became a member of the !Xun and Khwe Cultural Project in Platfontein, comprising artists from two San tribes, the !Xun and Khwe. In Shikamo’s work, she depicts themes of memory (mostly from her time in a beautiful and peaceful Angola before the wars) animals or symbolic hunting scenes as a means to express ideas of power, identity and self-determination. 

The !Xun and Khwe people from the Platfontein community were relocated and displaced from Angola during the wars of the 1970s and 1980s. The San of Platfontein is furthermore a collective name used for both these tribes resettled at Platfontein near Schmidtsdrift outside of Kimberley in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. In 1993, the !Xun and Khwe Cultural Project was initiated with the aim to promote the heritage of the San tribes, as well as to generate an income for the artists. Work by the !Xun and Khwe artists became popular in South Africa and internationally and their works were often exhibited in exhibitions with themes of South African identity, memory and processes of reconciliation and redress within the country. In their art, they tell stories of the past and the present, frequently with political subtexts of their experiences. The work these artists make is sometimes reminiscent of the rock art that forms part of South Africa’s heritage. However, these contemporary artworks by the !Xun and Khwe artists may also create dialogues between extinct artforms such as rock art and contemporary art made to be sold for income purposes. May these final few days in heritage month create an opportunity to be thankful for our rich culture and that we are free to express ourselves through our heritage.

 

Week 25 - Happy Birthday Pat Mautloa

Keep on Praying, 1996 
Pat Mautloa
High-fired Earthenware
850mm x 650mm

On this 24th of September we share both Heritage Day and South African artist Pat Mautloa’s birthday. Mautloa, one of the pioneers of modernist painting in South Africa, was born in Ventersdorp (in the former Western Transvaal) on 24 September 1952. Keep on Prayingby the South African artist Kagiso Patrick (Pat) Mautloa is an abstract painting depicting a man on his knees, praying in front of a Christian cross. The white lines indicate a shield against a forming pool of blood, whereas the dark and bright red is a symbolic reference to old blood and the new blood. The work references the battles and chaos that ensued in apartheid South Africa, right after the unbanning of black political parties in 1990. These battles between rival parties continued until the democratic elections of 1994 in South Africa. Mautloa is currently a committee member of the Thupelo Art Project at the National Museum and Art Gallery in Gaborone, Botswana and has participated in their yearly workshops. His work has been exhibited at several major exhibitions within South Africa and internationally. He is married to another well-known South African artist, Bongi Dhlomo.

The artist explores themes of urban life around him, especially that of the streets of Johannesburg where he resides. Mautloa commenced an art career at a young age and took up art studies while still in high school at the Jubilee Art School in 1969 and in 1970 went onto the Mofolo Park Arts Centre. Mautloa completed his schooling in 1972 and continued at Mofolo until 1975. In 1978, he relocated to the Rorke’s Drift Art School in Natal to complete his studies with an OK Bazaars Bursary. In 1980 he began working for the OK Bazaars as a junior graphic artist and, during this time, also taught art part-time at the Mofolo Arts Centre and at Federated Union of Black Artists (FUDA). In 1981, Mautloa joined the SABC as a graphic designer. In 2019, Mautloa was honoured with the Helgaard Steyn Award for painting, which is awarded to artists who exemplify a high level of artistic achievement and innovative leadership over an extended period of time. A very happy birthday from the UP Museums Pat!

 

Week 24 - From age-old traditions to contemporary art 

Untitled gourd-shaped vessel, 2016 
Nic Sithole 
High-fired Earthenware
690mm x 480mm

Nicolas (Nic) Sithole was born in Piet Retief in Mpumalanga and is a renowned South African ceramicist who works from his studio in Mamelodi, near Pretoria. His maternal grandmother was a potter and as a child would make clay animals and let them harden in the sun. Sithole worked and learned from the South African ceramicist, Michelle Legg, at the University of Johannesburg, who taught Sithole to make traditional Zulu and Venda pots. He realised that this was the method that he could use to best express his creativity. Through Legg and inspired by the work of Kenyan born ceramic artist Magdalene Odondo, he has explored surface treatments that enhance his forms such as burnishing, terra sigillata and smoke firings. Sithole only started producing work under his own name for the first time in 2007 and has since participated in many exhibitions, including the Ceramics Southern Africa - Regional and National exhibitions. Sithole's ceramics are popular across many South African institutions, such as the University of Pretoria, the Association of Arts Pretoria, the Corobrik Collection, the Pretoria Art Museum, the Nelson Mandela Museum in Port Elizabeth and at the William Humphreys Art Gallery in Kimberley, as well as various private collections locally and internationally.  

Inspired by the prominent Mapungubwe collection, Sithole created the above gourd-shaped vessel in 2016.  The Mapungubwe collection, under the stewardship of the University of Pretoria Museums, comprises thousands of archaeological artefacts ranging from ceramics to metal objects, to bone tools, a vast range of indigenous and trade glass beads, amongst others.  It forms part of the nationally and internationally renowned heritage of our country, reflecting a community that existed in southern Africa from AD 1220 to 1290. Especially the beads and the decorative elements and shapes of the archaeological ceramics inspired the artist, so much so that when the UP Museums commissioned artworks from him, that he employed bead and triangular motifs in the creation of this decorative artwork, thereby continuing an ancient tradition of ceramic and bead art in an innovative contemporary manner.  During Heritage Month in September, South Africans celebrate their cultural heritage passed down over several generations. This gourd-shaped ceramic vessel is a wonderful example of new ways in which continuing traditions continue to influence and inspire us today.  

 

Week 23 - Heritage in a painting

Mapungubwe, 1996
Nico Roos (1940 - 2008)
Oil on canvas
440mm x 390mm

This painting of Mapungubwe Hill was created between 1995 and 1996 by the Namibian-South African artist Nico Roos. Mapungubwe, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located on the joining borders of Zimbabwe, Botswana and the Limpopo province of South Africa, situated near the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers. Mapungubwe was the site of one of the largest and earliest African states in sub-Saharan Africa before being abandoned by approximately AD 1300. The Mapungubwe cultural landscape comprises of various archaeological sites, including Schroda (AD 900 to 1000), K2 (AD 1000 to 1200) and Mapungubwe Hill (AD 1220 to 1290). Following the rediscovery of Mapungubwe Hill, archaeological excavations by the University of Pretoria followed in the 1930s.  Many significant artefacts reflective of the African Iron Age were recovered, including objects such as trade glass beads, locally created beads, shell, ceramics, clay figurines, bone tools, iron arrowheads, spearheads and hoes, as well as copper implements and many more. Most significantly, Mapungubwe became renowned for the discovery of gold grave goods, comprising amongst others the famous Mapungubwe gold rhino, as well as other gold foil figurines, gold coil bangles and solid gold beans, which reflect the power, influence and superiority of the kingdom. This cultural landscape’s treasures, including the Mapungubwe gold collection, are under the stewardship of the UP Museums and curated by the Head of the UP Museums Dr Sian Tiley-Nel. 

The Mapungubwe painting by Roos was commissioned by Prof. Danie Joubert (Vice Chancellor and Principle of the University of Pretoria from 1982-1991) for the front cover of the publication by the archaeologist Andrie Meyer entitled, The archaeological sites of Greefswald, published in 1998 by the University of Pretoria. Roos is regarded as a post-war and contemporary painter and was mostly known for his landscape and abstract paintings. Roos was also a lecturer in Art History at the University of Pretoria. South Africa has a rich history filled with many cultures and is also home to nine world heritage sites including Mapungubwe. Therefore, it is our responsibility as South Africans to protect and preserve our cultural heritage and to learn from it. Nico Roos depicts the richness of the landscape with his colour use within the painting, yet it is an empty landscape one could easily pass without knowing the significance of its history. This remarkable painting together with the Mapungubwe gold collection will be back on display as of this Heritage Day at the Javett-UP Art Centre, on 24 September 2020. 

 

Week 22 - Wood sculpture as tradition 

 

Leopard attacking a man, ca. 1990
Johannes Maswanganyi (b 1949)
Carved and painted wood 
1500mm x 850mm x 600mm

 

As we enter Heritage Month in South Africa, we celebrate our shared cultures of this country, as well as our own traditions and heritage. The UP Museums are also celebrating artists working in traditional mediums by means of one of the University of Pretoria’s latest acquisitions – Leopard attacking a man by Johannes Maswanganyi. Leopard attacking a man depicts a landscape carved out of wood with a tree, bugs, night owls and a leopard eating a man. The scene is supposed to be gruesome, yet it is subtle and one is intrigued by the skilled craftsmanship displayed in the work. The artist wants to expose the message behind his work gently to the viewer, as the viewer picks up different elements within his work.

 

With no formal institutional art training, Maswanganyi inherited his father’s talent for wood carving. He learnt the methods of this skilled practice by observing and learning from his father as he created functional and everyday wooden utensils such as bowels and spoons. By making use of a variety of wooden pieces, he creates more complex compositions within his sculptures. Maswanganyi explores subject matters ranging from religious depictions from the Bible and from African spiritualism, African businessmen, historical scenes, political personalities and famous pop stars. Johannes Maswanganyi also trained his son Collen Maswanganyi as a wood carver and sculptor. With this new acquisition of Leopard attacking a man, the University of Pretoria now possesses works by both father and son within the UP Art Collection.  These will be on display in the Edoardo Villa Museum and sculpture gallery. Our heritage is what makes you unique from everyone else. We are fortunate to have inherited traditions, which we live with, that were passed on from our forefathers, and we should cherish these traditions by continuing to pass it on to future generations.

 

 

August 2020

 

Week 21 – Refuse to obey

Why defy (from the Disasters of pease series), 2001

Diane Victor (b 1964)  

Etching and aquatint on paper

215mm x 280mm

 

Diane Victor is an iconic South African artist, specialising in printmaking and drawing. Her work is loaded with satirical and social commentary that is grounded in the country's history. Within her work, Victor challenges social and political issues in contemporary South Africa, where she often critiques apartheid, violence, injustice, the legacies of colonialism and corruption. Looking at the work Why defy, one immediately feels a sense of gender inequality as the iron casts it shadow over the portraits of some of the women in the work. An iron marked with the word ‘DEFY’ and a woman pressed into the side standing in angst in the dark makes one feel that violence has occurred and the woman standing might have been marked for her disobedience by means of this very same iron she uses to make him representable and respected by society. 

Why defy forms part of Victor’s Disasters of peace series (2001 - ongoing) of etchings, exploring the issues of suffering, submission, sexual repression, domination, phycological and social violence, that accompany her fascination with the socio-political and economic deprivation of South African people. As we are about to exit the final week of women’s month, we question the role of the South African woman. We have heard concerns about the abuse of women in their own homes during this national lockdown. Women suffering by looking after their children, while these were not able to go to school, doing domestic tasks at the same time as working from home. Women are expected to be successful in their careers, as well as being able to excel in their traditional female roles, for example being a home-maker and mother, whilst supporting their family financially. We hope women will stand together to overcome the view society has upon them and that women won’t stand for being abused at home, in the work place or anywhere else. 

 

Week 20 – Traditional and intangible representations in art

 

Forefather Spirits, ca 1990

Henriette Ngako (b 1943)  

Painted earthenware

440mm x 390mm

 

Henriette Ngako is one of South Africa's finest contemporary ceramists who explores working figuratively, making her work more sculptural by medium. Influenced by the Tswana village she was born in, Ngako depicts her childhood memories of animals and the intangible stories that were told. Her work creates narratives, where she explores notions of freedom, memory and of her heritage. Her work is loaded with meaning and messages as she depicts these narratives within her sculptural artworks. There is also a sense of fantasy depicted, as one observes the expressive works by Ngako, for example depicting a family (or rather her forefathers) riding on a large birdlike horse. She also depicts painted patterns that she remembers from the Tswana village where she spent so much time as a child. Ngako’s love for ceramics was inspired by her grandmother, who was a potter. It is with Ngako’s work that one realizes the importance of one’s upbringing and the influence our forefathers have on who we become. As we pay tribute to the women who fought against the harsh discrimination against women in the past, we now celebrate the talents and achievements of women and female artists today, which were influenced by the intangible traditions and memories that shaped their lives.

 

 

Week 19 – Celebrating the productivity and “fertile contributions” of women

Simangele, 2019

Philiswa Lila (b 1988)  

Bead, string and wood

1600mm x 670mm

 

The University of Pretoria’s Art Committee recently acquired this significant bead work entitled Simangele by South African artist Philiswa Lila. The artist explores the physical, mental and spiritual spaces of her own experiences by exploring methods of remembering these as stories. Lila is particularly interested in memory histories and personal identities. The artist is influenced by the nuances of language as she explores individual experiences within the framework of culture, mainly in isiXhosa while also keeping in mind that there is an interconnectedness within the different cultures of South Africa. The notion of language in her work is explored within the meaning and experiences of individualism, especially concerning the physical and emotional senses that are related to humans and animals. 

Simangele, the title of the work means ‘surprise’ in the Xhosa language. If you look at the work at a first glance you don’t see it, but when looking again, one can see that the work depicts a pregnancy test: a positive pregnancy test, showing one highlighted stripe – surprise! Therefore, during this women’s month, we celebrate mothers, who may have been surprised at the news of being pregnant, and who as women have brought about a positive contribution to society.

 

Week 18 - A feminine touch

Self-portrait after Gustav Klimt's Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 2013

Amita Makan (b 1967)  

Silk, organza with vintage saris, sequins and gold fabric piant

1570mm x 1000mm

 

It is August and we are celebrating women this month by looking at some of our favourite works created by female artists featured in the UP art collection. The first artwork for this month is by South African artist Amita Makan. The work is a self-portrait after Gustav Klimt's Adele Bloch-Bauer from 1907, which is one of Klimt’s most famous artworks. Makan uses the cobbler stich, a method of stitching she inherited from her Gujarati ancestors from the Mochi caste in India who were cobblers in their trade. The women from the Gujarati are also celebrated for their embroidery, a craft that Makan inherited and explores within her work. The artist, furthermore, makes use of materials such as silk, sequins, crystals, vintage saris and ribbons, which are embroidered onto shimmering fabric such as organza or other netted fabrics.

Makan makes use of this craft to create personal narratives within her work as a means to explore notions of the past and the present. She creates artworks that highlight historical and contemporary contexts within South Africa, featuring themes of globalization, migration and also the deterioration of the environment are embedded within her artistic narratives. However, notions of ancient Hindu and Buddhist philosophies and scriptures are also immersed in her work, as these become lenses through which she views and narrates her environment. Makan’s self-portraits explore her ancestral roots and identity within the materiality and the physical making of the work. Self Portrait After Gustav Klimt's Adele Bloch-Bauer I is translucent and can be viewed from the front and the back. In the same way that Makan celebrates her history and ancestral roots, we should celebrate the 20 000 South African women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women. We, therefore, celebrate the achievements and the important roles that women of all races and religions have played and continue to play within South Africa and globally.

 

July 2020

Week 17 - A Fight for Harmony

President Nelson Mandela I, 1998

Mike Edwards (b 1938)  

Cemcrete

 

Mike Edwards is a great admirer of the late president Nelson Mandela. During the years in which Mandela was incarcerated, Edwards collected some of his banned publications. On many occasions, the artist proposed ideas to the ANC for sculptures of Mandela, even before his election as President in 1994. However, it was only in 1998, when Edwards could finally realise his sculpture of Mandela, when the South African National Boxing Control Commission commissioned the portrait of President Nelson Mandela I. In this sculpture by Edwards, the words ‘Children Our Future’ are inscribed on the front of the work, showing the love Mandela had for children and the better future he strived to provide children with.

After stepping down as president in 1999, Mandela went to work with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, a cause Mandela was very fond of. The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund was established by Mandela in 1995 where he donated a third of his salary to the cause throughout his term in office. The Fund initially operated to promoting a humanitarian response to react to the immediate needs of South African children with unfortunate conditions. The fund strives to change the way society treats it’s children and youth, by giving them a voice to speak up. The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund is still active today.  To learn more about this cause, you can visit the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund Website at https://www.nelsonmandelachildrensfund.com.  

 

Week 16 - A Monument for Madiba

Nelson Mandela II, 2005 (A Maquette)

Mike Edwards (b 1938)  

Bronze

520mm x 390mm

 

In 2003 a call was sent out for South African artists to propose a sculpture for “Freedom Monument”. The intention was to erect the monument in Port Elizabeth (also known as Mandela Bay) on the beachfront between the harbour breakwater and King’s Beach. Mike Edwards, a well-known portrait artist designed the Nelson Mandela II maquette with a design team, which included architects, structural and marine engineers, social workers, environmentalists, and museum specialists. For Edwards, this monument proposed “… the possibility of a portrait that could at last be one that could truly be worthwhile both sculpturally and in the wider sense of inspiring positive attitudes in all who would have visited the site.” Edwards furthermore quotes that the pose he chose for Late President Mandela “… with arms outstretched and open hands (a sign of piece […]) is almost one of benediction and was typical of Mandela, especially immediately after his release [from prison] and on many occasions thereafter when addressing the crowds in triumph.” However, while Edwards’ proposal for Freedom Monument was turned down.  A Bronze cast of the Nelson Mandela IImaquette is now part of the University of Pretoria’s Art collection. 

 

Week 15 - 67 Minutes for Mandela

Nelson Mandela, 2017

Zelda Stroud (b 1964)  

Bronze

480mm x 340mm

 

One of the latest art acquisitions by the University of Pretoria is a bronze bust of late president Nelson Mandela, which was created by the Pretoria-based artist Zelda Stroud. The bust represents former President Mandela in a proud and kind manner, as we knew him to be. Mandela was South Africa’s first black head of the state and the first president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Mandela was also a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary hero, a political leader and a philanthropist, who served as the president of South Africa from 1994 until 1999. Mandela, an icon of democracy and social justice, received many awards and honours, including a Nobel Peace Prize for his dedication to make South Africa and the world a better place.

This year, everyone has been under more stress and many people have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The UP Museums encourage everyone that can help with a small act of kindness and a gesture of generosity to do so by giving to someone less fortunate. Things to consider doing during the 67 minutes for Mandela Day under lockdown are the following: 

  • Clean out your closets and give to someone in need of warm clothes or shoes.
  • Give a blanket to someone who is cold or buy food for someone who is hungry. 
  • Learn to paint or teach someone about art with the Google Arts & Culture App.

As soon as life is “back to normal” and the UP Museums have re-opened to the public, you can view this beautiful sculpture of late President Nelson Mandela at the Edoardo Villa Museum in the Old Merensky Building on the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield Campus. 

 

Week 14 - Mandela a symbol for hope

Mandela, 1996

Motshile wa Nthodi (b 1948)  

Woodcut print on paper

270mm x 395mm

 

Mandela by the artist Mothsile wa Nthodi shows a man reaching for the moon. The artwork represents the late President Nelson Mandela, who changed the future of South Africa significantly, aiming to create a rainbow nation, where all cultures are represented from a previous Apartheid government. Wa Nthodi, a Pretoria-based artist, works with many symbolic elements in his work, for example colour has significant meaning in his work, red represents ancestors, black represents life and yellow represents cosmic elements such as the sun, moon and stars. This workby wa Nthodi, represents President Mandela’s influence of new life and hope to the future of this country. Wa Nthodi is passionate about African art as it represents one’s culture and roots within the stories it depicts. 

Nelson Mandela himself was an artist, who since 2001 decided to make art as a means to share his memories. The artmaking process became therapeutic as Mandela’s past was explored in his works. His works showcased his life in prison, his homeland, his values and his experiences of the environment which surrounded him and his experience of the world. Through art, Mandela also celebrated his heritage. Words such as ‘freedom’, ‘imprisonment’, ‘unity’ and also ‘future’ were depicted in Mandela’s artworks. The UP Museums hope this Mandela Month that you would be inspired to be creative, to tell stories and make art representing this significant country with all its remarkable cultures and heritage and your own story. You can view artworks by Nelson Mandela on the House of Mandela website.

 

Week 13 - Mandela Month

Mandela, 2017

Claudette Schreuders (b 1973)  

Chine collé lithographe

700mm x 400mm

 

18 July is former President Nelson Mandela’s birthday and is internationally celebrated as Mandela Day. As South Africans, we are embracing Mandela’s life and legacy for the whole month of July. Since we are facing intersecting struggles and challenges this year, we can reflect on how far we have come as a country thanks to a great leader, who has given 67 years of his life to fight for human rights and the abolition of apartheid. Internationally, Mandela Day encourages people to use 67 minutes of their time in July by doing small acts of kindness for those who are less fortunate. 

UP Museums want to start Mandela Month by showcasing the lithograph Mandela (2017) by Claudette Schreuders. Schreuders is a South African artist, whose work is a reflection of the search for an African identity in a post-apartheid South Africa. The narratives in Schreuders’ works explore African and European identities within a post-apartheid South Africa. Her figures, whether it is her sculpture or prints, are loaded with meaning and emotions that reach beyond cultural boundaries. Schreuders’ works furthermore demonstrate hybrid notions of meaning and form, influenced by Blolo and Colon figures of West Africa and the elements of medieval church sculpture and Spanish portraiture. 

 

June 2020

Week 12 - The Age of Grace

The Age of Grace, 2003

Anton Smit (1954) and over painting by Dorothea Nortje

Concrete and paint 

 

You might have encountered Anton Smit’s sculptures around Pretoria, in shopping malls or even in corporate and public parks. The University of Pretoria has a few of Smit’s public sculptures in its collection, including The Age of Grace. This concrete sculpture by Smit was erected on the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield campus in 2003. In 2015, the artist Dorothea Nortje was commissioned by Smit to paint over the first resin coat of the work. Nortje used the theme of the Soweto Student Uprising (16 June 1976), where she made use of photographs of the schoolboy Hector Pietersen, who had been shot and killed in protest of the poor education offered to black school learners during the apartheid regime. The painted feature on the sculpture draws the viewer closer, where one finally sees the painted figures over the bloody red-coloured paint. 

 

Notably, the University of Pretoria’s The Age of Grace sculpture was created following an exhibition commissioned by the South African Government. In 1994 Smit exhibited 35 sculpture at the Grand Central Station in New York as part of an initiative to strengthen the trade between South Africa and The United States of America, organized by SATOUR in conjunction with the Department of Trade and Industry. This initiative was represented by former president Nelson Mandela. The Age of Grace, an eight-foot-high bronze sculpture at the Grand Central Station, celebrated South African heritage. The title is referred to by Smit as “The age of grace is the last period of mankind on earth before the Second Coming.” Smit’s large sculptures prominently evoke themes of suffering, reconciliation, glory and sublimation.

 

 

Week 11 - Youth Day

Madonna and Child, 1998

Willie Bester (1965 - ) 

Silkscreen print 

505mm x 415mm

 

 

Celebrating Youth Day in South Africa today, we are looking at Madonna and Child (1998) by Willie Bester. The work shows a mother, holding her baby with an army vehicle driving towards the viewer and finally spelling out the words “NEVER AGAIN” on the road which the vehicle will be driving. This artwork is a reminder of the Soweto Student Uprising on the 16th of June in 1976, where students protested for fair education in the country, 44 years ago. As a result of many wrongs in the country due to the apartheid government, many people were not able to get an education of value or even any education at all. This COVID-19 pandemic has raised many issues on the availability of fair education for pupils, where many areas and homes do not have access to the internet for online education. Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world” and thus, every person should be able to partake in quality learning. 

 

Willie Bester explores prevalent political and social issues of South Africa in his artworks. These topics prominently feature in the work of the artist, and he was especially passionate about these issues due to his own experiences: he had to leave school at the age of 10 to help his family financially due to the forced removal from their home under the Group Areas Act. As a struggle artist, Bester still makes use of these problems as he addresses the social and political developments in a post-apartheid South Africa within his art making. Bester’s choices of subject matter furthermore include issues of crime, greed, poverty, corruption, government accountability and other contentious subject matters that need to be voiced and documented in the new South Africa. 

 

Week 10 - Playing

Playing, 1981

Mandla Welcome Koboka (1941 – 1999)

Charcoal and watercolour

789mm x 593mm 

 

The month of June is a celebration of the youth that shapes South Africa. Youth Month in South Africa is a commemoration of the Soweto Student Uprising that took place the 16th of June in 1976. This year, with the lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic may be especially difficult for the youth to endure, as the lack of social engagement and activities are disconnecting children from playing and participating in their communities. We hope that the return of children to school will motivate and inspire them to learn and grow their full potential. We furthermore hope that all children and learners have access to education during this difficult time. 


This week we explore the work of Welcome Kaboka. Kaboka was a student of the Polly Street Art Centre during the 1950s. Although not well known during his lifetime, he was a pioneer for Modernist art in South Africa. The artist's works documents the daily life of people in townships and cities in South Africa. The work Playing depicts a boy with a toy car and a woman watching him play. The painted strokes made by the artist create a sense of movement and one can feel the freedom and excitement of the boy in this scene. We hope children and learners will soon be as excited as the boy depicted in this artwork, as we progress through the lockdown stages into more freedom.

 

May 2020

 

Week 9 - Equality

 

 

Collage of Portraits 

 

In the final week of International Museum Month, the University of Pretoria Museums explore equality and discrimination under the broader IMD 2020 umbrella theme of “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion”. In this respect, the UP Museums focus on the aspect of equality and discrimination within a university museum environment. Globally, museums are responsible to create meaningful experiences for people of all backgrounds to overcome the disparities relating to topics of ethnicity, gender, identity, socioeconomic backgrounds, LGBTQI, disabilities, political affiliation and religious beliefs. This week, we do not only include one artwork, but a collage of portraits within the UP Art Collection. Artworks include: Wilma Stockenstrom, "Ek laat my lok deur die nagvoel se fluit II" (2018) by Henk Serfontein, Self Portrait after Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer I (2013) by Amita Makan, The surfer (2017) by Justice Mukheli, The boer (1996) by Velaphi Mazimba, Herero Woman (1949) by Bettie Cilliers Barnard, Portrait (1976) by Gregoire Boonzaier, Woman (1960) by Johanna Wassenaar, Chancellor Wiseman Nkulu (2008) by Cyril Coetzee and Boy with bird (1950) by Walter Battiss.

 

Week 8 - Accessibility and Disability

 

 

Have a wonderful Valentine’s day, 1994

Tommy Motswai

Pastel on paper

750mm x 1100mm

 

This week UP Museums are highlighting accessibility and disabilities within the museum environment for International Museum Month. There has been a sudden incline to include the experience of art to people with disabilities in the past few years. Most people take their senses of vision, hearing and touch for granted, and are spoilt to be able to experience art on various levels. However so many people with disabilities are excluded from the experience of art in general. The UP Museums with the assistance of the University of Pretoria’s Disability Unit have explored various notions to invite people with disabilities into our galleries. Our Museum Interpretive Officer has successfully initiated specialised tours to understand the need to sensory and physically impaired experiences to people with various disabilities. 

 

In the same manner which we aim to make our Museums accessible to people with disabilities, we also need to celebrate artists with disabilities. Tommy Motswai is a deaf born artist that explores the joy of urban spaces and the noise it represents visually. Although this artwork by Tommy Motswai is a valentine's celebration, it shows the pleasure Motswai finds when people gather. The artists’ works also show subtleties and humor found within the relationship and the changing political and social environment of South Africa. It is this social and multi-curtural environment which the artist loves to explore within his art.

 

Week 7 - Climate Justice

Before the Storm, 1981

Erik Laubscher (1927-2013)

Acrylic on canvas

910mm x 1180mm

 

Rising sea levels, severe storms, coastal erosion, hurricanes, heavy rains and extreme fires - are all due to climate change. In accordance with ICOM's International Museum Day (IMD 2020) theme, Climate Justice is a key topic to be discussed in terms of museums responsibilities to protect their art and heritage objects from the impact of climate change. The threat of climate change has accordingly influenced museums to take on risk management measures to protect their objects from various forms of damage. It is also important to generate greater awareness of climate-related issues through interpretation in museums.  

 

In response to the theme of climate justice, we are looking at the South African painter Erik Laubscher’s work. His mostly abstract paintings explore the South African Landscape as a spiritual experience. The artist makes use of colour,  line, shape and texture to create abstract landscapes to give the audience a sensorial experience of the canvas. In his painting Before the Storm, the landscape appears almost like a melting ice glacier. Although the threat is great, there is almost a sense of calmness in the painting. The artist aims to create intrinsic experiences in his painting to immerse the viewer within his art. The title Before the Storm on its own says much about climate justice and the threat that may come in the world of conservation and preservation. 

 

 

Week 6 - Inclusion

 

 

Ndebele Village, 1989

Sam Nhlengethwa (1955-) 

Acrylic and paper on canvas 

940mm x 1760mm

 

International Museum Day (IMD) is annually celebrated on 18 May all over the world. This year we celebrate IMD with the theme of “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion”. The UP Museums will be posting weekly topics exploring the IMD 2020 theme for the entire month of May. This week we are exploring the broader theme of digital inclusion within the IMD theme.  Therefore, we are looking at this brightly coloured painting by Sam Nhlengetwa, depicting a traditional Ndebele village with patterning on the village walls, as well as on the clothing of the people. With lockdown, people are going about their own business as usual as seen in this picture.  However, some people may not be able to learn or even access learning online, due to a lack of digital equipment and internet. The UP Museums would like to generate awareness of all the people at home, who have difficulties to access the internet for learning, working and for leisure.

 

In this regard, we also celebrate the artist Sam Nhlengethwa, who co-founded the Bag Factory Artists’ Studio with David Koloane in Johannesburg in 1991. The aim of the Bag Factory Artists’ Studio was mainly to provide studio space to black artists, who had little access to artistic resources. The Bag Factory Artists’ Studio is still active today.  

 

April 2020

Week 5 - Cranes

Cranes, 1936

Maggie Laubser (1886-1973)

Oil on canvas on board

560mm x 610mm

 

The artwork Cranes by Maggie Laubser is such a joyful artwork. The bright colours draw you in an almost fantasy landscape with two cranes located at a pond. The sky seems to be moving and the landscape is almost alive with simple bright colours. The blue crane, which is also the South African national bird, stands almost one metre in height. This species is currently listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. Perhaps lockdown will also bring something positive to the crane population, allowing for the bird population to recover. As South Africa goes into Stage Four Lockdown from the first of May, we hope to see some positive outcome in the COVID-19 pandemic. UP Museums hope this wonderful and happy artwork will bring you joy and freedom for a moment, as you may still feel frustrated being confined in your homes.

 

Week 4 - Yearning for nature 

Wild Fig Tree, 1930

Hendrik Pierneef (1886-1957)

Oil on canvas
900mm x 1100mm

 

The University of Pretoria Museums have a significant collection of artworks by the artist Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef. This week UP Museums are yearning for nature with an artwork inspired by Pierneef. Whilst admiring the landscape painting Wild Fig Tree by Pierneef, we want to celebrate nature and the natural beauty of this country surrounding us on a daily basis. It is not often that Pierneef included people in his paintings because of the love and respect he had for nature. It is the South African landscape and architecture which gives expression to the artist’s artworks. We are now in this current lockdown situation forced into finding a new appreciation for nature and the South African landscape, which we so often take for granted.  

#UPMuseums #nature #StaySafe #Lockdown #HendrikPierneef #Landscape painting

 

 

Week 3 - Peace Fountain

Peace Fountain, 1993

Thijs Nel (1943-2020)

Ceramic

The prominent South African artist Thijs Nel was born on the farm “Waterkloof” near Pretoria on 08 June 1943 and he recently passed away on 27 March 2020.

During his career as an artist, he achieved considerable renown as a potter and ceramicist. In 1993 he created a stoneware ceramic fountain, known as “The Peace Fountain”, which was bought by the Felix-trust and donated to the University of Pretoria. Nel erected the fountain next to the Musaion Building on the main Hatfield Campus. The fountain in its totality is created from ceramic materials. However, the work as seen currently is not the original fountain. In 2001 a student damaged the original fountain by trying to climb onto it. The original structure of the fountain was damaged to the degree that it had to be replaced. Nevertheless, the work is made up of four ceramic blocks at the bottom, forming a cross.  This symbolises that Africa came to a crossroad. The first block on top of the cross is a grinding stone, which shows Africa’s early development.  This is topped with another grinding stone, but one with a hole right through. The second grinding stone represents the impact of colonialism. The third level is a broken grinding stone that is inverted back to back.  This indicates the technological advancement of Africa. At the very top an egg is located as a sign of new life with water flowing out of it, signifying living water.

 

Over the years, the University of Pretoria’s Art Collection acquired seventeen works by Nel through donation and purchase. Of these, there is the one ceramic work (The Peace Fountain), four sculptures and twelve paintings. Eleven of these paintings and the four sculptures form part of his 1980s series “Colour Fields”, where the artist explored the change of colour in the landscape as seen in window reflections. In 1990, the Silver University of Pretoria Medal was awarded to Nel for his contribution to the art.

 

Week 2 - Looking out of the window

From a Window, Wale Street, Cape Town, 1936

Ruth Prowse (1883-1967)

Oil on board

370mm x 460mm

From a Window, Whale Street, Cape Town (1936) is an artwork by the South African artist Ethel Ruth Prowse (1883-1967). Prowse was not only an exceptional artist, but was also interested in the preservation and restoration of art. This work from the UP Museum’s temporary SA Landscapes exhibition at the Rectorate Foyer is currently on exhibition in the Administration Building on Hatfield Campus. In our second week of Lockdown in South Africa, our streets are empty and we are looking forward to going outside and roam the streets or even taking our dogs for a walk soon. Interpreting this painting by Prowse, one see’s someone looking through a window into a street with people working next to the road in Whale Street in Cape Town. In the same sense as this person is looking out the window are also yearning to step outside again. Social distancing is a reality, however workers and in this case, road workers contribute the construction of our economy. We wish to celebrate the worker here too.

 

Week 1 - Made in South Africa

Made in South Africa, 1994

David Koloane (1938-2019)

Oil pastel on paper

295mm x 420mm

April is Freedom month in South Africa, despite lockdown as a result of Covid-19. In celebration of Freedom month, the UP Museums are posting an artwork by David Koloane, a South African artist featured in the UP art collection. The UP Museums have recently curated a temporary exhibition on the South African landscape at the Rectorate by the UP Executive and we wish to share some of these local works with you. The landscape in art has the potential to depict a nation’s ideals of individualism, freedom and opportunity. Currently, we are in lockdown within a ‘landscape’ of global pandemic and accordingly facing difficult new challenges within this country and in the rest of the world affecting not only museums but the lives of many. Have a look at this significant artwork by South African artist David Koloane. Koloane’s artworks often depict urban landscapes of chaos, uncertainty as well as how people live and work within a city like Johannesburg. His work is expressionistic in style and contributes to the energetic scenes portrayed within his significant urban landscapes.

David Koloane was born in Alexandra in 1938 and grew up in Soweto where he spent most of his time in the city of Johannesburg.

#UPmuseums #UniversityMuseumsFromHome #StaySafe #SouthAfrica #Freedom #AprilFreedomMonth #UniversityOfPretoria# SouthAfricanLandscape #CurateExhibitions #Lockdown #ExploreArt

 

- Author Lelani Nicolaisen & Nicole Hoffmann
Published by Lelani Nicolaisen

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