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French for International Relations and Diplomacy

- Wits University

The Department of French and Francophone Studies at Wits recently co-hosted a successful Winter School in French for International Relations and Diplomacy.

Francophone recruitment in South Africa is on the rise, making proficiency in French a valuable skill. French-speaking countries in Africa are important economic partners and offer good growth opportunities for South African entrepreneurs. According to the French Embassy in South Africa, 360 French companies operate in South Africa employing almost 37 000 people directly in many professional fields.

The French Embassy in South Africa, in partnership with the Department of French and Francophone Studies in the School of Literature, Language and Media at Wits University, hosted a Winter School with an intensive professional language course in French for International Relations and Diplomacy last week on 26 – 30 June 2017. With this cooperation being the first of its kind, the Winter School aimed to respond to the growing demand in specialised French language proficiency in this field.

Frank Marchetti, Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of France says that as French is an official language for many African countries, French language skills are pivotal at fostering good international relations: “In international relations and diplomacy, French is an important language. It is the official language of 32 states and governments, including many African states. It is the working language of many multilateral organisations including the United Nations and the European Union. Closer to home, the African Union and the South African Development Community, among others, have adopted French as both official language and working language.”

The Winter School attracted more than 40 students from various South African institutions, officers and diplomats from the Department of International Relation and Cooperation (DIRCO). The intensive language course was facilitated by language trainers coming from French universities.

Tarryn Warries one of the participants from DIRCO who works in the multilactural desk says that the course was relevant to her scope of work as most organisations use French as their working language, and Winter School would be beneficial for her job.

Another participant, also from DIRCO, Rossana Geldenhuys extended the essence of French in welcoming delegates from French speaking countries, saying that they feel more welcomed when you speak their home language.

Quoting Nelson Mandela, Geldenhuys added that, “if you speak to a man in a language that he understands, it goes to his head, but if you speak to him in hi mother tongue, it goes to his heart.”

“As diplomats we are to speak to the hearts of other people, whether we are negotiating, whether we are having bilateral agreements, agreements of cooperations, memorandums of understandings, it helps a lot,” she said.

The Winter School harnessed the writing and oral French skills of the participants through debating and writing exercises.  

Dr Fiona Horne, a Lecturer in the Department of French and Francophone Studies at Wits says the course will increase the skills set of students, thereby increasing their employability: “Since it is a certified, internationally recognised course, it will increase our students' chances in the job market and equip them with skills that they will hopefully use in their professional careers.”

The Winter School was an immense success, not only developing new language skills but also creating networks between participants across institutions,  says Horne.

 

I am a Witsie – New insourced workers come on board

- Wits University

Cheers of jubilance reverberated through the Matrix and Reith Hall dining halls this week as the University welcomed new Witsies.

The third cohort of insourced workers joined Wits as new staff members on 1 July, with some excitingly shouting “I am a Witsie!”.

More than 1000 workers were insourced to the Protection Services and Catering Departments at Wits this week. This is the third cohort of workers to be insourced at Wits this year. The first two groups were onboarded on 1 January and 1 March respectively.  

The insourcing process has been long but equally rewarding and successful.

“It has been a long walk to where you are today. They usually say save the best for last,” said Fana Sibanyoni, Chief Operating Officer during his welcoming address to the workers who patiently waited as their peers officially became Witsies early in the year.

The services rendered by the new Witsies are crucial to the University. Protection Services maintain safety and security on campus while those in the Catering Division are responsible for the nutritional needs of students at the Wits dining halls. 

Sibanyoni, urged staff members to treat students like their own, and encouraged them to continue working hard and to be resilient especially during times of turmoil such as student protests.

Newly insourced Wits staff members 870 px

“There is one common thing about our students, izingane zethu (they are our children). We must try to educate each other so that they are able to respect us as their parents – that’s what they call us when they protest. We need to prove that we can behave like parents and upfold our duty to guide, feed and protect them.”

Protection Services worker representative, Lebohang Rapeti, echoed Sibanyoni’s remarks, urging his colleagues to balance their rights and responsibilities now that they have reached their destination.

“Can we please continue working in the same manner we worked from the beginning! We must improve on what we have been doing,” he said. “We are happy to be part of the Wits now, and we promise that we will work hard and protect our kids.”

Busi Nyembe from the Catering Division said that being insourced will open doors of opportunities for her.

“We are happy that we are part of the Wits family now. It means a lot to us. We will now be able to work with other staff members as we are all part of the Services Department. Before being insourced, we only worked because we had to provide for our families, but it is different now because we are under Wits.”

She hopes to complete her matric next year and further her education with Wits.

Her colleague, 25-year-old Vusikaya Gogela also has the same aspirations.

“I am still young. Now that I am at Wits, there are plenty of opportunities for me. I will also be able to further my studies, get a diploma and a Master’s degree.”

Many extended their gratitude to the students, who supported their call to be insourced during the Fees Must Fall protests .

Read: Wits welcomes insourced workers

 

Witsies recognised in M&G’s 200 Young South Africans 2017

- Wits University

More than 25 Witsies are included in this year’s Mail & Guardian list for the most notable young SAs under the age of 35.

The recognition attests to the quality of leaders Wits University produces and grooms.

Now in its 12th year, the supplement showcases the young stars who are making sterling contributions in their respective fields and who are shaping the country's future.

It celebrates talent in the fields of Arts and Culture, Business and Entrepreneurship, Civil Society, Education, Environment, Film and Media, Health, Justice and Law, Politics and Government, Science and Technology, and Sport.

The Witsies who made the list in their respective fields, are:

Arts and Culture

Claudine Ullman: Comedian and Wits alumna. Ullman read for a Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Arts at Wits.

Ntokozo Kunene: Costume and production designer. Kunene holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree in economics, business finance and law from Wits.

Business and Entrepreneurship

Dr Yudhvir Seetharam: Part-time Lecture in the School of Economic and Business Sciences at Wits and Head of Analytics, FNB Business. Seetharam obtained his Bachelor of Commerce degree in business finance and economics at Wits and his honours degree in finance.

Itumeleng Merafe: Founding director of the Bokamoso Cross Mentorship Programme. He obtained his masters in the management of finance and investments with distinction at the Wits Business School.

Philani Sangweni: Chief Operating Officer of Fundi (formerly known as Eduloan) and graduate of the Wits Business School’s Executive Programme.

Mawethu Nkosana: Founder of The Black Love Association, Nkosana graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and political science from Wits.

Ntokozo Yingwana: Gender activist and PhD-candidate in the African Centre for Migration Studiest Wits.

Nomonde Nyembe: Attorney at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits.

Education

Dr Elias Phaahla: Researcher at the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Phaahla obtained his honours degree (with distinction) in international political economics from Wits.  

Xichavo Alecia Ndlovu: Political Studies lecturer at the University of Cape Town. Ndlovu completed her undergraduate studies at Wits and obtained her Masters of Arts (cum laude) in international relations from Wits, earning her a number of accolades for this achievement.

Mangi Tshikomba: Founder and CEO of Things Technologies. Tshikomba obtained a Bachelor of Science honours degree in Civil Engineering from Wits.

Film & Media

Onke Dumeko: Strategic Marketing Manager at Ndalo Media. Dumeko obtained a degree in marketing and economic science at Wits and an honours degree in marketing.

Health

Dr Aayesha Soni: Community Service Doctor in the Helen Joseph Hospital. She completed her medical degree at Wits at age 23.

Dr Kalli Spencer: Urologist at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. Spencer completed his undergraduate studies at Wits.

Dr Nokwethemba Mtshali-Hadebe: Chief Executive at Bertha Gxowa Hospital. She completed her MBA at Wits.

Dr Salome Maswime: Obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Wits Lecturer and Director of the Wits Obstetrics and Gynaecology Clinical Research Division. Maswime obtained her PhD at Wits.

Dr Nqoba Tsabedze: Cardiology researcher at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital. Tsabedze is currently completing his PhD on the genetics of idiopathic cardiomyopathy at Wits.

Dr Sivuyile Madikana: Medical Officer in the Gauteng Department of Health and brand ambassador, Brothers for Life. Madikana recently completed his MBA with the Wits Business School.

Natalia Neophytou:  Biokineticist and Lecturer at the Wits Centre for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. She obtained her masters degree in exercise science from Wits, and is currently pursuing a PhD in autism spectrum.

Justice and Law

Rorisang Mzozoyana: Senior attorney at Norton Rose Fulbright. Mzozoyana holds a masters of law degree from Wits and she also lectured real estate law at Wits.

Tefo Tlale: Advocate at the National Bar Council of South Africa. Tlale read for a law degree at Wits.

Phetole Modika: Partner at Bowmans Law Firm. Modika graduated with a law degree from Wits in 2008.

Science and Technology

Dr Nadine Gravett: Sleep researcher and Senior Lecturer in the School of Anatomical Sciences at Wits.

Cikida Gcali: Wits alumni and petroleum engineering masters student.

Funeka Nkosi: Founder of Green Girls Stem Foundation and PhD student at Wits.

Dr Tiisetso Lephoto: Microbiology Researcher at Wits. Lephoto obtained her PhD in molecular and cell biology with an emphasis on microbiology, biotechnology, genomics, nematology and bioinformatics from Wits last year.

Dr Thandiswa Ngcungcu: Ngcungcu obtained her PhD in human genetics at Wits. She is currently a lecturer in the Division of Human Genetics at Wits.

Nthato Moagi: Aerodynamics Engineer at Denel Dynamics. Moagi obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering at Wits.

Sport

Tshepang Tlale: Chess champion and second year psychology and philosophy student at Wits.

 

WJP journalist honoured

- Wits University

Wits Justice Project’s Carolyn Raphaely receives honorable mention in coveted 2017 WJP Anthony Lewis Prize.

The award for “exceptional rule of law journalism” was announced during World Justice Forum V held in The Hague, Netherlands, this week. The Forum is the annual premier international event of the World Justice Project® (WJP), an independent, multidisciplinary organisation working to advance the rule of law worldwide.

The Anthony Lewis Prize was created to acknowledge journalists from around the world who have contributed to increased awareness and understanding of the foundational importance of the rule of law. This year’s winner was the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS).

Raphaely was among five journalists who received an honorable mention in recognition of their extraordinary reporting on rule of law.

Competition judge Martha Mendoza of the Associated Press wrote of the nominees, “I’m stunned by the courage and profound commitment of these reporters — their stories, often told in obscurity, are shining lights of justice and transparency in incredibly obscure and dangerous places.”

Wits Justice Project’s Carolyn Raphaely.

Raphaely is a senior journalist at the Wits Justice Project is a programme of the Journalism Department that uses the power of investigative journalism to cover miscarriages of justice whilst utilising the media environment to educate and raise public awareness on extensive and systemic problems in the criminal justice system.

About Carolyn Raphaely

With a psychology and drama degree, a Masters in City and Regional Planning, stints as associate editor of the Financial Mail, features editor of Finance Week, Johannesburg bureau chief of Cosmopolitan magazine and communications manager of Conservation Corporation Africa under her belt, she brings a maverick approach to the Wits Justice Project. Raphaely cut her journalistic teeth exposing the pitiful conditions experienced by migrant workers living in employer-provided housing in the Western Cape.  Subsequently, she’s written extensively about socio-political, human rights and lifestyle issues, housing, business and the environment.

She’s also written about travel, décor, design and architecture as a freelancer and spent lengthy periods in some of Africa’s most wild and wonderful places. Right now, she’s obsessed with righting wrongs in SA’s justice system by drawing attention to the mostly ignored plight of people behind bars. Raphaely was named print Legal Journalist of the Year by Webber Wentzel in 2011 and runner up in 2012 and 2015. She was Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Award finalist in 2013 and 2014.

Mandela Day a lifestyle for Witsies

- Wits University

Wits staff members and students celebrate Mandela Day, by giving back to their own – the Wits community.

In celebrating Mandela Day, commemorated annually on 18 July, Wits staff and students focused on the Mandela Day Toiletry Bank Challenge.

The Challenge, an initiative of the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach (WCCO) programme, called on all Witsies to fill up giant bins with toiletry items in aid of needy students.

“We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference,” Madiba once said.

This statement is what inspired the Wits Law Clinic staff members to donate toiletries to the WCCO in an effort to contribute to sustainable change as envisaged by Madiba, and celebrate his dedication and service to humanity.

Neo Mahlako, a staff member at the Law Clinic responsible for student training and mitigation says that giving back is a cause very close to his heart and part of his daily work.

Wits staff members donating toiletries for Mandela Day

“Mandela Day is what we live for at the Law Clinic because this is what we do every day. We try by all means, with the limited resources that we have, to assist those who can’t, particularly those who do not have access to legal services. The Day means that we have to go beyond what we are used to and acknowledge that before you are whatever that you are, you are a member of society, and being a member of society, you also have a responsibility beyond your daily routine, and to give back to society. It is everybody’s responsibility to ensure that we do the little that we can to make South Africa a better country. Mandela Day should be a lifestyle.” 

Some of the teams that excelled in the Challenge include: The Law Clinic, the Global Institute for Change, the Faculty of Humanities (Graduate Centre, Finance and Human Resources Departments), the Registrar’s Office and the English as a Foreign Language students at the Wits Language School.

The Advancement Division, which comprises of the Marketing and Communication Department, Alumni, Development and Fundraising Office, Functions and Events, joined hands with the Legal Department to fill up a giant bin with toiletries for students.

The team which collected the most number of toiletry items will win free lunches at the Wits Club.

For their Mandela Day, the US Embassy donated food to the Wits Food Bank and laboured in the Wits food garden located on the Braamfontein Campus West. The garden provides fresh vegetables distributed to students and also used in the Masideleni Daily Meal Food project, which provides one daily hot meal to students facing food insecurity.

Donations to the WCCO are welcome throughout the year. Visit the WCCO on the ground floor at the Matrix for a discussion on how you can assist. Financial contribution to the WCOO can be arranged via the Wits Fundraising and Development Office.

 

Lesedi Job: 969's Helen of Troyeville Director

- Wits University

Award winning Wits alumna, Lesedi Job returns to Wits for the 969 Festival with Helen of Troyeville which she directs.

Helen of Troyeville is a poetic work reflecting on the complexities of contemporary South Africa from the eyes of a grandmother who finds herself in a life-threatening situation.

Job, was recently named the winner of the 4th annual Sophie Mgcina Emerging Voice Award. The Award is presented each year by the Market Theatre Foundation to a leading young creative who excels in their career. The recipient of the Award receives the invaluable opportunity to present a work on one of the stages at the Market Theatre. This year’s announcement coincided with the 41st anniversary of the founding of the Market Theatre.

She obtained her Bachelor of Arts honours degree in Dramatic Arts from Wits. Her professional theatre debut was in James Ngcobo's The Lion and the Jewel (2008) and she has since worked with him in Touch my Blood (2009Colored, Museum (2014) , Ketekang (2014) , Letters to Mandela (2015) , I almost remember: a tribute to Maya (2015) and, A Raisin in the Sun (2016) . In 2013 she starred in Curl up and Dye directed by Sue Pam Grant .

In 2014 she performed in Lara Foot's Fisher's of Hope which went on to be performed in Vienna and Germany, and received a Naledi Theatre Award nomination for best performance by a leading actress. In 2016 she had the opportunity of assisting director Adrian Noble during a workshop of the new Musical Sousatzka which was staged in 2017 at the Elgin theatre, Toronto. The year 2017 marked Job's directorial debut with the premier of Mike Van Graan’s When Swallows Cry followed by her direction of Omphile Molusi's Itsoseng both productions were staged at the Market Theatre.

Previous winners of the Sophie Mgcina Emerging Voice Award are choreographer and dancer Lulu Mlangeni (2014), writer and director Khayelihle Dom Gumede (2015) and Sonia Radebe (2016). Since winning the award all three have gone on to winning other accolades. Sonia Radebe is this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner.

Job’s joins their ranks after making a significant impact for her successful work at the Market Theatre. Earlier this year, she directed the world premiere of Mike van Graan’s When Swallows Cry, playing to sold out shows, glowing accolades and standing ovations at every performance.

Last month, she directed Brett Goldin Award winner Omphile Molusi’s ten year running play, Itsoseng, by re-imagining the solo work as an ensemble piece. During April, she was invited to participate at the Crossing Cultures & Continents conference in the USA to discuss and perform an extract from Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Later this year, she will perform alongside Fiona Ramsay in If We Dig to be directed by Megan Willson.

Wits Choir’s tour of Europe a success

- Wits University

The Wits Choir has returned home after a 21 day tour of Europe.

“The tour was a resounding success on many fronts. Musically, we did 11 performances and received 11 standing ovations. We brought the music of Africa and South Africa to Europe and they loved it and appreciated it!” beams Dalene Hoogenhout, Wits Choir Conductor.

“Diplomatically, the Wits Choir was outstanding ambassadors for the University and for South Africa. We built bridges between the audience members – be they from Germany, France or Austria –and South Africa, and their impression of us was of a group of responsible, enthusiastic and musical people bringing credit to the University and our country.”

The Wits Choir is renowned for its cultural diversity and its musical repertoire, which draws from different parts of the continent. The choir also boasts unique in-house compositions.

Wits Choir in Europe

A journey of hard work, learning and healing

Taking a 21-choir member on tour is not an easy feat given the economics and human dynamics. “I would compare putting a tour like this together with building a 10 000-piece puzzle – it is a challenge, but the satisfaction of having pulled it off so successfully is priceless,” continues Hoogenhout.

For Charlotte Motsoari, a fourth year social work student, the trip has reinforced tolerance and psychological and vocal endurance and taught new important life lessons.

“It is interesting to travel the world and realise how different music is and how similar it is at the same time.”

Motsoari, whose skilful joyful ululation accompanies some songs, was pleasantly surprised to discover from one of the audience members, during their performance in France, that ululation is also used in some parts of Switzerland.

Some of the European choirs who performed used their own techniques of “unusual and weird vocal sounds” to make beautiful music, she says.

While showcasing African music was at the top the agenda, the Wits Choir undertook this journey to rebuild their morale after a tumultuous 2016 filled with student protest.

The music stopped between September and November 2016. This was a challenge for the choir, which practices regularly to deliver flawless performances at Wits ceremonies and around the country.

There was added pressure with the looming international tour.

“We had six months to prepare the repertoire that would normally take a year.  This challenge was met and musically we are stronger now that we have been in the past two years,” says Hoogenhout.

The trip would not have been such a success were it not for the kindness of hosts.

For most of their journey, the choir was hosted by communities contributing to building bridges amongst people and promoting cultural exchange.

Wits hopes to impress in Varsity Football

- Tshepiso Mametela

Wits hopes to rise to the top of this tournament before some players join the national team at the world student games.

Varsity Football

Wits seeks to make up for their blushes after missing the bus at last year’s Varsity Football tournament, when the 2017 edition of the inter-varsity crown jewel event kicks-off on Thursday, 27 July 2017.

Wits finished joint-bottom alongside the UFH with four points from seven games – a blemish which football sports officer at Wits, Montsho Matlala, said the team would look to avoid this year. The team’s opening assignments will be away to UWC and NWU on 27 July and 3 August, respectively, before returning home for a bout with CUT on 10 August.

The team will enjoy another home game with cross-town rivals and 2016 losing finalists, UJ on 17 August, before a tough encounter against former Varsity Football champions, UP Tuks for a fifth round tie on 24 August. Round six will see the team tackle current USSA men’s A section champions TUT in a tough home encounter on 4 September, before concluding matters against UFH at the Wits Stadium on 7 September.

“Looking at the tournament this year, the first objective is not to finish last,” said Matlala, who heads out with the South African team for the Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade on 13 August. “The most important games will be the first three games before we lose four players and myself to represent the national team at the world student games.”

Gift Baloyi (BSc Eng: Civil), Tshirelesto Motsogi (BSc Eng:Metallurgy), Mahle Mtabane (BA Honours: Media) and Kaizer Maphanga (BA Law) will all don national team colours before returning for the last two Varsity Football group stage encounters. “The objective will be to get nine points from the first three games so that when we do leave, the team has a good base from which to work,” added Matlala.

“The games against UJ and Tuks are big games, but we feel like the team should be able to handle those two games [especially] Tuks, who will also be losing some players to the national team.

“It’s not easy being Wits Football; being the underdogs, but then again, we were the underdogs at USSA but managed to beat the eventual champions, TUT [in a group match].”

Ten years of targeting talent

- Wits University

The Targeting Talent Programme (TTP) at Wits this year celebrates 10 years of grooming talented high school learners.

Launched in 2007 by the Student Equity and Talent Management Unit (SETMU) at Wits, TTP has successfully cultivated the Maths and Science skills of learners in Grade 10, 11 and 12.

Annually, TTP hosts a winter school with learners from various parts of the country. As part of this, SETMU provides an enrichment programme for Maths and Science educators from schools that participate in the TTP.

The Educator Enrichment Programme aims to upgrade the subject specific, subject teaching and curriculum-specific knowledge of these teachers. The programme also assists in the creation of professional learning communities amongst educators to support dissemination and generation of knowledge.

The teachers on the programme gain valuable knowledge and skills from top science educators in the country.

This year, John McBride, a passionate Science and Maths teacher who has been with TTP for almost its duration, taught science methodology to high school educators in similar disciplines.

McBride is the Head of Schooling of Mindset, an educational programme on SABC television. The programme supports learners and teachers in formal schooling with a focus on Grades 10, 11 and 12 and the Maths, Sciences, Social Sciences, and Finance clusters of subjects. 

Targeting Talent educators during winter school 2017

For the TTP Educators Enrichment Programme, McBride empowers educators with the best methods to make their subjects accessible to learners and to engage learners in fun and practical ways.

“My passion is not only teaching Science, but to look at different methodologies, particularly leaning towards the integration of digital tools into the classroom and how you cross that digital divide, which is sometimes a mind shift as much as it is a physical thing. So that is what we have been playing with. We have been looking at a number of different theories of teaching and learning and recognise that we cannot allow the status quo to continue. We need to change. We need to make every effort to reach our kids and connect with them. One way of doing that is through digital communications,” says McBride.

Duduzile Magwaza, Science teacher at St Ansgar’s Secondary School in Lanseria, says this year’s winter school has been an enthralling experience.

“This year, the winter school is blowing my mind. It is challenging, interesting, and looks difficult at the same time. It is difficult but we have realised that we can do it. We are now doing things that I didn’t think I can do. It also showed us that you must not only be a routine teacher. You must be flexible.”

The teachers from Welkom High School in the Free State, Joseph Taetsane (Science) and Oscar Memane (Maths) have already started to be flexible  in their teaching methods – they  have introduced social media, such as WhatsApp group chats.

“Learners are changing. They need new ways of teaching and approaching in terms of content teaching,” says Taetsane.

Beyond Science and Maths

The TTP is an extension curriculum which supplements learners’ knowledge across all fields. In addition to the Maths, Science, and language disciplines – which are focus areas –  TTP also imparts knowledge on international relations and diversity studies.

Dr Jacqueline De Matos Ala, TTP teacher in International Relations says her class engages learners on issues beyond those discussed in the conventional classroom.

“The nice thing about this class is that we field a lot of questions, and what we decided to do is to engage on what it means to be a citizen in a democracy, how to be responsible, how do you keep government accountable, what is the role of government, and what is government supposed to do for you.”

Ala adds that her class plays a pivotal role in developing the learners’ critical thinking.  

“The TTP programme is an extension curriculum, where the learners are exposed to different things. It is a forum where you can star developing the learners’ critical thinking -  and that has a big overlap in the areas of Maths, Science, and English –how to engage with information, and what the difference is between being critical and thinking critically.”

Related articles:

TTP Interview on Morning Live

Zena Richards, Director of SETMU talks about TTP and mentor and TTP alumna, Refilwe Morapeli shares her experience about the programme on Morning Live.

Andy Warhol exhibit brings more than 15 minutes of fame to WAM

- Wits University

The Warhol Unscreened exhibition broke all attendance records at the Wits Art Museum (WAM) when it opened there on Wednesday evening, 26 July.

WAM is exhibiting 80 artworks of the iconic 20th-century pop artist in Braamfontein in the Warhol Unscreened: Artworks from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection.

More than 5000 Witsies, Joburgers and art aficionados descended on WAM in unprecedented numbers.

“We are thrilled and completely overwhelmed at the turnout tonight. Although this is the most high profile exhibition we’ve presented thus far, our programme is filled with thought-provoking, interesting exhibitions, and regular educational activities,” said Lesley Cohen, Curator of Strategy and Development at WAM.

But why showcase the works of a deceased white, gay, American man in a museum of African art in Johannesburg?

“When this opportunity by Bank of America Merrill Lynch was presented to us, it was too good to turn down,” said Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Principal of Wits University.

“Andy Warhol was an institution in his own right. He transgressed the normal boundaries of what people consider fine art. In that sense, Andy Warhol democratized access to art. He was a gay man; he was disrupting hetero-normativity at a time when it was not so popular and it is ironic that, in 1968, he was shot by a radical feminist.” (Warhol was wounded but survived).

Students at the Andy Warhol Unscreened exhibition at Wits Art Museum, July 2017

 

Andy Warhol is regarded amongst the most iconic artists of the 20th Century and his legacy endures.  As a cultural icon in the 1960s, he was ahead of his time in terms of pioneering multimedia. He was one of the first people to have his own reality TV show, and he seemed to anticipate social media, sharing his daily life with the world. In addition to art, he worked in advertising and branding, film, and as a model, and he donated to wildlife conservation.

Despite Warhol’s careful cultivation of his own celebrity and commercial success, he never lost sight of his working class origins in Pittsburgh, USA.  His art disrupted the highfalutin ‘artist-ocracy’ of 1960s New York through an inimitable pop art style which demonstrated celebrity in people, myths,  fauna, and flora, amongst other seemingly ordinary subjects.

Works from Warhol Unscreened exhibition at WAM in July 2017

“This exhibition is one of yet another of many collaborations with WAM and Wits University and we hope that there will be many more. We are extremely grateful for the relationship that we have with these institutions, which allows us to bring art to the community in which we do business here in South Africa,” said Julia Benadie, Regional Executive for Operations and Corporate Affairs for Merrill Lynch South Africa.

In 2013 the bank sponsored an exhibition of the works of African artist Gerard Sekoto in the Song For Sekoto – Gerard Sekoto 1913-2013 at WAM.

“Everyone will be famous for at least fifteen minutes” (attributed to Warhol who confessed he never actually said that) was nonetheless true for WAM on Warhol Unscreened opening night.  In an age of celebrity when the personal brand prevails, the Museum anticipates a whole lot more.

Warhol Unscreened: Artworks from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection is on now at WAM until 8 October 2017 and was made possible by sponsor Bank of America Merrill Lynch, with assistance from Business Arts South Africa, Kaya FM, and Black Africa.

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