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Graduate exhibition showcases fine artists

- Wits University

NEWWORK23 is an exhibition of work by young artists in fulfilment of a Wits BA Fine Arts degree.

The NEWWORK project is a year-long collective experience of interventions, installations, exhibitions, fundraising events, and performances that culminate in the graduate exhibition.

The NEWWORK23 Graduate Exhibition features all fourth year and Honours students in the Department of Fine Arts in the Wits School of Arts.

These 48 artists work in a range of media including performance, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, multimedia installation, and interactive events. 

The exhibition took place on Thursday, 23 November, at Wits Art Museum (WAM), The Point of Order, and Arthouse Studios in Braamfontein.

Wits Fine Arts NEWWORK23 Class Prize winner Ntsako Nkuna on left and merit awards to Noa Hall in middle and Rethabile Padi

Here Ntsako Nkuna won the Class Prize, which is awarded to the student with the highest marks, while fellow students Noa Hall and Rethabile Padi received merit awards.

As with every graduating class of Fine Art students, their work implicitly and explicitly responds to the world in which the works are made. Every generation has sets of issues that inform them. This cohort had to grapple with a post #Feesmustfall university ecosystem, further exacerbated by a global pandemic, which arrested and re-arranged their course of study significantly.

In conversation with informative design

Class Prize winner Ntsako Nkuna says the inspiration for her body of work stems from the intricate world of design, both in its virtual and physical realm. “Design acts a ubiquitous presence in our daily lives. It’s something we interact with daily, and I think it has a lot of information embedded in it,” she says of her installation, in which she most appreciates “how the materials speak to each other visually and conceptually.”

Ntsako Nkuna won the Class Prize for the highest marks in Fine Arts at the NEWWORK23 graduate exhibition 600x300

“I think NEWWORK is a way to realise and share my efforts towards making a body of work to a bigger audience, and the fact that we could do this collectively adds more depth to the experience,” says Nkuna, who plans to practically explore the art world after graduating, and ultimately explore design and film and how these media can work together.

Installation by Ntsako Nkuna Class Prize winner Wits Fine Arts NEWWORK23 600x300

Navigating omissions in representation

Merit award winner Noa Hall is “curious as to how images hold the human body in its various iterations, and the performativity present within this relationship and action.” Drawing from material online, social media, the internet, film, and the tool of the smartphone as a documentation device, she “fragments images as a line of inquiry.”

Noa Hall merit awardee Wits Fine Arts NEWWORK23 600x300

“As an image-maker a concern that I have is around how one creates meaningful images in the contemporary moment of image proliferation?” explains Hall. “How does one navigate the omissions present in representation, and respond to images ethically, when it becomes increasingly difficult to do so because of their multitudinous nature?”  

Hall says she feels grateful to be validated by the School of Arts in her creative endeavours and to have had the opportunity to showcase her work. “Increasingly it feels like the work really only is activated when people interact with it,” she says.

Art by Noa Hall Wits Fine Arts merit awardee at NEWWORK23 600x300

Negotiating presence in public spaces

Merit awardee Rethabile Padi’s body of work Re Tla Kopana Ko Khoneng (We Will Meet at The Corner) explores the street corner in Johannesburg as a site and marker of exchange within the human and spiritual experience.

Rethabile Padi Wits Fine Arts merit awardee NEWWORK23 600x300

“My weekly routine of commuting with local taxis, Gautrain, or occasional e-hailing services around Jozi's inner city and outer suburbs, deeply influenced my ways of seeing and analyzing the landscape beyond the concrete infrastructure,” says Padi, who is constantly negotiating her existence and presence in public spaces. Through her work, she seeks “to interrogate what it means to occupy public space as an African woman.”

Padi says she’s grateful to have won a merit award because this acknowledges her potential. “The Wits Fine Arts Degree has pushed me to learn how to prioritize time, trust my intuition, my strength, and challenge myself in achieving more than I’d think I’m capable of despite any circumstances.”

Art by Rethabile Padi Wits Fine Arts merit awardee NEWWORK23 600x300

Collaboration, holding space, incubating excellence in arts 

Zen Marie, Academic Lead on the NEWWORK project and a Lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts, said, “There are subject matters that are incredibly difficult and challenging at times. It’s really not an over-statement to say that ‘anything goes’ on a programme like this. The task of managing this programme is incredibly intense and holding the space for this is not something I do by myself – it’s absolutely a collaborative effort. All of the academic staff in the Department work to supervise and mentor the fourth year and Honours group of students. That in itself is an incredibly intense, emotional, intellectual, aesthetic layer that all of my colleagues do, and I’d really like to give them all a huge thank you for supporting the students the way that they have done over the past four years.”

Marie paid tribute to the Department’s “incredibly talented support staff who work in areas of printmaking, photography, sculpture, and much more.” He acknowledged NEWWORK23 curator, Reshma Chhiba, who “gracefully, sensitively, and patiently curated Gallery 1.”

Marie concluded: “Lastly, I’d like to thank the stars of tonight – the class of 2023, whose labours over the past four years have been really incredible to see. It’s been a cold and arrested degree, but through that we’ve managed to come back to the spaces we’ve occupied, the studio spaces and the gallery spaces. A huge, huge thank from my side, from the staff of the Wits Department of Fine Arts to the class of 2023.”

The NEWWORX23 exhibition is on now at WAM until 10 February 2024. Participating artists include: 

  1.  Abigail Holloway 
  2. Abigale Calisse 
  3. Allister Bios 
  4. Art Nkosi 
  5. Assya Agbere 
  6. Bafana Masango 
  7. Bethany Leaman 
  8. Bonolo Molefe 
  9. Buqaqawuli Nobakada 
  10. Christopher Lindes 
  11. Chuma Adam 
  12. Deyna McDonald 
  13. Falzur Phillips 
  14. Joshua Alexander 
  15. Kaydon Minaar 
  16. Khaya Tshabalala 
  17. KhulekaniSiswe 
  18. Kuyasa Kela 
  19. Lara Da Rocha 
  20. Lazilizwi Dana 
  21. Lebogang Mashigo 
  22. Masindi Mbolekwa 
  23. Maxine Maistry 
  24. Mbali Mdikane 
  25. Megan Rumpelt 
  26. Mzwanele Tshishonga 
  27. Nhlahla Keele 
  28. Noa Hall 
  29. Nonhlanhla Dipuo 
  30. Ntsakisi Neluheni 
  31. Ntsako Nkuna 
  32. Olivia Pinter 
  33. Puseletso Masemene 
  34. Rethabile Padi 
  35. Rirhandzu Vermeulen 
  36. Roitwavholugaho Matamela 
  37. Rumbo Mercy 
  38. Sam Ngcobo 
  39. Sara Amir 
  40. Sichumile Adam 
  41. Simangaliso Sibiya 
  42. Sudhata Jurakan 
  43. Tiisetso Banda 
  44. Tiisetso Doubatla 
  45. Tshepo Bopape 
  46. Uthimna Gqangeni 
  47. Whitney Peterson 
  48. Zuzu Ndlaleni