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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Art exhibition re-imagining the future of higher education

Noloyiso Mtembu

At least 60 artists have displayed their work reimagining the future of higher education at the Stellenbosch University Museum as part of the institution’s centenary celebrations.

The Forward? Forward! Forward exhibition opened this week and will run until April next year, featuring work of some of the most prominent and most promising painters, sculptors, film-makers and photographers in the country and the world.

Museum director Bongani Mgijima said the exhibition enables the university community to think beyond the past and the present.

“Commemorations, by their very nature, tend to look backwards. By facing forward, this exhibition departs from the norm. It aims to stimulate discussions that will enable the university to move beyond its divisive and exclusive pasts into an all-embracing and inclusive future,” said Mgijima.

He said student protests over opening campuses and free education in the past few years had placed higher education on the national agenda.

“The Forward? Forward! Forward exhibition has been necessitated by a need to position the museum as a safe space for conversations on the future. It is these difficult but necessary conversations that will enable universities to move forward,” he said.

Among the art exhibited is a 10-minute-long film about an ancestral presence, Lhola Amira, by Gugulethu artist and academic Khanyisile Mbongwa titled Lagom: Breaking Bread with the Self-Righteous.

Another intriguing piece is a display of more than 14000 words on a seemingly unending conveyor belt of paper by Mari Retief titled Words Matter.

The exhibition was put together by the museum curator of exhibitions, Ulrich Wolff, and co-curator Elizabeth Miller-Vermeulen.

Miller-Vermeulen said the exhibition was the result of an open call to artists to propose artworks addressing the future of higher education, locally and in Africa, and reimagining the future of Stellenbosch University.

She said artists had delivered an intriguing range of exciting works, touching numerous themes in a variety of media.

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