University of Cape Town Art Collection Exposed as Pale and Male After Fiery Protests

Justin Deffenbacher, Times Live, April 20, 2017

Cape town university

Cape town university (Credit Image: © Rieger Bertrand/Hemis/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Four out of five artworks at the University of Cape Town only feature whites.

An audit of 657 paintings‚ statues and plaques‚ triggered by the 2015 uprising against the statue of Cecil John Rhodes on the upper campus‚ found that only 15% featured blacks and 2% coloureds.

The findings have led to a series of recommendations from a seven-member task team‚ including a proposal for an art museum for “problematic” and “non-problematic” works.

After the removal of the Rhodes statue‚ 23 artworks were removed and destroyed in last year’s so-called Shackville protests‚ leading to most surviving artworks being placed in storage.

The artworks task team‚ led by Shadreck Chirikure‚ an associate professor in the archaeology department‚ found that most artists represented in the university collection were white‚ and while 41 depicted men’s achievements‚ only 10 honoured women.

Sixty-eight artworks glorified white history and achievements but only 12 featured blacks.

Now‚ after two years of what university officials acknowledged as “emotionally charged” protests and demonstrations‚ the task team has begun to implement changes.

“This is about creating an environment where a diversity of staff and students feel comfortable and see themselves and our country reflected in the institution. Works of art are one of the elements that are being vigorously discussed‚” said UCT spokesman Elijah Moholola.

The task team’s proposals include displays of “contested” works so they can be debated‚ and acquisition of new works “aimed at achieving redress and balance”. This will be made easier by the relaxation of a university regulation requiring all art on campus to have been donated or created by alumni.

Contested artworks will remain in storage until recommendations are implemented.

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