AMBER PAYNTER & LARA VAN HEERDEN
Coinciding with Women’s Month, an art piece celebrating the vibrancy and leadership of South African women was inaugurated on the Stellenbosch University (SU) campus.
On 26 August, an opening event was held to launch the art installation, after which the launch attendees were invited to take a walking tour of the various Visual Redress pieces around campus, including installations at the SU Library, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Adam Small Theatre.
“The Circle”, a now familiar bronze art installation on the Rooiplein grass, features 11 prominent female figures, forms part of this Visual Redress.
Curator of the collaborative project, Stephané Conradie of SU’s Department of Visual Arts, said the idea of a circle was born from an image of indigenous Khoi people conversing amongst themselves. She shared that while she was a SU student, groups would congregate on the grass and engage in conversation. “The idea came that if everyone could sit down in a circle and humble themselves and talk, then maybe we could move forward,” Conradie said. “The project foregrounds women who have contributed to our society but whose histories have been erased or overlooked in the past, as well as women who currently have a voice and are engaging in current issues.
“We hope it is a space for students to sit and engage. This was not supposed to be an imposition but was supposed to blend in with what’s already happening on this patch of grass.”
The draft for the policy has been opened for comments since 2 August and will close for comments on 2 September. The final approval of the policy will happen on 2 December 2019 at the last Council meeting of the year.
Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice Chancellor, said the policy is an endeavour to replace offensive visual symbols with new ones comes in the wake of SU’s Transformation Plan and their contribution towards excluding voices in the past. “What we see here tonight is an expression of our commitment. We want symbols, names and artworks that heal and unite and help us move forward together,” De Villiers said at the launch event.
According to Prof Elmarie Constandius, Senior Director: Social Impact and Transformation from the Department of Visual Arts (SU), the policy is an attempt to “[remedy] the harm that visual symbols [from previous and current social injustices] have caused by creating new African centred symbols that will be inclusive of a wide array of histories and identities.”