UP Museums pay Homage to Pretoria in new exhibition launching for International Museums Month in May

Posted on May 10, 2024

Homage to Pretoria is an exciting new exhibition opening to the public on Thursday 16 May 2024 in the Javett Bridge Gallery. The exhibition is curated by Gerard de Kamper and Uthando Baduza and presents signature works predominantly drawn from the University of Pretoria (UP) Museums institutional art collection. The artworks are curated across time and space, drawn from a wide selection of leading South African artists from the 19th to 20th century such as JH Pierneef, Frans Oerder, H. Pennington, Anderson, Pieter Wenning, and more contemporary artists such as Michael Mmutle, Lucky Sibiya, Elizabeth Rampa, Peter Sibeko, Lefifi Tladi, and Paul Ramagaga to name a few. The selected artworks are unique, educational, and research-based, emanating from the UP Museum Collection and a heritage art campus context.

“Homage”, meaning ‘an expression of high regard, honour, and respect’ is a well-balanced exhibition that pays creative homage to the city, a landscape, and its people. The exhibition seeks to surface the complex and nuanced histories of the City which are woven into the fabric of the entire country. The narratives in the artworks on exhibition pose pertinent questions about the possibilities and difficulties in paying homage to this city of power that has been a symbol of state control and repression for many people in the country.

The exhibition also aims to be a visual and artistic commentary on the thirty years of democracy, exploring how the city has changed over history and each artwork reflects the City (and South Africa) as an eclectic and complex social, cultural, and heritage landscape. Other works reflect the de facto Capital of South Africa, as both the administrative and diplomatic heart of the country and how artists have interrogated and resisted their relationship with the State. Many of the works are historically significant and depict an iconic ‘Pretoriana’ landscape and how the people, events, and moments have shaped the City (and South Africa) in ways that we are still trying to make sense of in the present.

The works in the exhibition were selected based on either choice of subject matter, social or political commentary, landscape, identity, or architecture that broadly pays homage to Pretoria as a city and a symbol of the South African state and condition. A central theme in the exhibition is the making and creation of the City, to highlight Pretoria as the capital city showcased with some of the earliest artworks of the Union Buildings since 1910. The work on displays is therefore an examination of the establishment and construction of the City (and by extension South Africa). The exhibition is therefore an opportunity to reflect on how the Country has been shaped by the City how the City has shaped the Country, and how artists have responded to this question.

The UP Museums would like to extend appreciation to the following internal and external partners for their loan contributions to ensure a collaborative exhibition of this nature is shared. The UP Museums appreciate the support of the University of Pretoria Archives; Special Collections, Department of Library Services; Architecture Archive, Department of Architecture; Department of Institutional Advancement; the H G W J Schweickerdt Herbarium; Manie van der Schijff Botanical Gardens; the Javett-UP Art Centre; South32 Collection; Ditsong Museum of Cultural History; The Pretoria Art Museum; and the private collection of Dieter Hagg. For all tours and pre-bookings for International Museum Week from 14 May to 17 May 2024, please contact Matsobane Steven Motena by email: [email protected].

- Author Dr. Sian Tiley-Nel

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