Cu­rat­ing a space to re­flect on lived his­tory

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - YAZEED KAMAL­DIEN

ARTISTS and ac­tivists have launched a month-long res­i­dency at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity to re­flect on #FeesMustFall protests.

#FeesMustFall, the coun­try­wide de­mand from some univer­sity stu­dents for free higher ed­u­ca­tion, this week led to clashes between se­cu­rity guards and stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Johannesburg. Univer­sity lead­ers blocked jour­nal­ists from en­ter­ing the cam­pus to re­port on protest ac­tion.

In Port El­iz­a­beth, par­ents of stu­dents at the Nel­son Man­dela Metropoli­tan Univer­sity (NMMU) are re­port­edly threat­en­ing le­gal ac­tion against the in­sti­tu­tion for not en­sur­ing their chil­dren con­tinue their stud­ies.

NMMU has been shut down since the start of the week and lec­tures have been sus­pended amid #FeesMustFall protests.

UCT vice-chan­cel­lor Max Price this week called for univer­sity lec­tures to re­sume after classes were sus­pended last week.

Against this back­drop,

Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity’s art gallery and mu­seum has opened its doors for a month­long res­i­dency, com­pris­ing a se­ries of events to re­flect on #FeesMustFall.

Greer Val­ley, a Capeto­nian with a mas­ter’s de­gree in fine art from Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity, is cu­rat­ing the res­i­dency called Open Fo­rum. It launches this week­end and runs un­til the end of Oc­to­ber.

The ini­tial call for artists to par­tic­i­pate premised the res­i­dency on the “one-year an­niver­sary of the his­toric oc­cu­pa­tion of Ad­min B, Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity’s ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ings which were oc­cu­pied as part of the #FeesMustFall cam­paign that spread across South African univer­sity cam­puses in 2015”.

“To com­mem­o­rate this, we, a col­lec­tive of artists, cu­ra­tors, stu­dents and staff at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity, will ini­ti­ate a month-long ‘open­ing’ of the univer­sity mu­seum and gallery and we are invit­ing stu­dents, artists and ac­tivists to oc­cupy these spa­ces over this pe­riod to pro­duce artis­tic and in­ter­ven­tion­ist works,” went the call.

“We are not in­ter­ested in pol­ished art­works but in the pro­duc­tion of nar­ra­tives that chal­lenge hege­monic ideas of protest and ac­tivism. We recog­nise protest as an im­por­tant site of knowl­edge pro­duc­tion.”

Val­ley said par­tic­i­pat­ing artists would show­case “photography, video, doc­u­men­tary films, sculp­tures, in­stal­la­tions, posters, graphic de­sign and in­ter­ven­tions” at the univer­sity venues.

She said the univer­sity was at first “hes­i­tant about this, but now we have sup­port”.

“Things that are pro­gres­sive are met with fear in Stel­len­bosch. Pro­gres­sive views are met with re­sis­tance,” she said.

“This (res­i­dency) is a space for dia­logue. There’s an op­por­tu­nity to en­gage with stu­dents. We sup­port pro­gres­sive dia­logue.

“We want to push the agenda for­ward. It’s a dia­logue to talk about the com­plex­i­ties we are in. And there’s no one po­si­tion.

“The protests are much big­ger than what’s hap­pen­ing on our cam­puses. It’s a mi­cro­cosm for South African so­ci­ety.”

Greer, who has been “em­bed­ded in stu­dent pol­i­tics”, said the protests were also about ad­dress­ing so­cial in­equal­i­ties and “de­colonis­ing the univer­sity cur­ricu­lum”.

Open Fo­rum is not the first at­tempt at a univer­sity-based ex­hi­bi­tion on #FeesMustFall. In March, UCT’s Cen­tre for African Stud­ies gallery hosted the Echo­ing Voices from Within ex­hi­bi­tion. This ex­hi­bi­tion of photographs, videos, posters and “rel­e­vant arte­facts that cap­ture the essence and the evolv­ing story of a dra­matic year in stu­dent protest” was dis­rupted by pro­test­ers over a per­ceived lack of in­clu­siv­ity.



Greer Val­ley is the cu­ra­tor of Open Fo­rum, a month-long res­i­dency at the Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity gallery re­flect­ing on #FeesMustFall protests.

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