Building Bridges

Building Bridges

Wits students Portia Monaheng and Dineo Mahlare work on a project in the architecture studio. Photo: Hazel Meda

ON the sports fields, Wits University and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) are arch rivals. But when it comes to construction, they’re on the same side.

First year students in the Wits School of Architecture and Planning and their UJ counterparts were challenged to design a cardboard box without using staples or glue. An egg would be placed inside the box, which would then be dropped from the top of a building. A well-designed box would protect the egg from breaking.

The twist in the challenge was that the respective teams would swap designs and then build one another’s boxes.

The joint project was organized by Wits Construction lecturer Gerald Chungu and Denver Hendricks of UJ.


Wits and UJ architecture students test their eggboxes by throwing them from the top of the John Moffat Building. Photo: Gerald Chungu

Communicating clearly

“We try to simulate what you do in construction: somebody designs and somebody else builds. Then we meet to see how successful the built object is,” Chungu said.

Student Aeron Stipanov said: “It was a learning curve for us. It showed us how the real world is; if your designs aren’t accurate, then your building will potentially kill people.”

Dineo Mahlare, a Wits student, commented on the different teaching style of each institution:

“The UJ drawings and designs were set up in a very professional way. They were neat and proper. We sort of did it in our own way. We did our own thing.”

She found the experience valuable and eye-opening.

“It shows you what you can work on to be a well-rounded architect. I learned how to present my work better just by looking at their drawings and their layout. It helped.”

Responding to questions about whether the eggboxes were successful, Chungu said: “Some were. Some broke on impact.”

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Wits School of Architecture and Planning

1st year architecture students prepare for the eggbox challenge. Photo: Gerald Chungu

Bronzed honour

Bronzed honour

Refreshments served in enamel cups, crate seats, and a group of men who sang work songs as if they were on duty underground.

This was part of the ambience set for guests who had come to Wits to bear witness to the official unveiling of the “unknown miner” statue situated at the entrance of the recently renovated Chamber of Mines building.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Yunus Ballim explained the significance of the statue donated by Louis Wald, the son of the creator Herman Wald, and its relation to the celebrations of the institution’s growth.

“The statue shows the significance that the mining industry has had on the country’s  economy and the history of the institution” said Ballim.

Part of the sculpture’s symbolic meaning is that it pays homage to the unsung heroes who  contributed to the mining industry.

The statue is the first of the two sculptures that were donated to the institution as part of the Wits90 celebrations.

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Photos by: Jay Caboz @jaycaboz

Double act for Wits Drama

A double-bill of Chekhov shorts – two one-act farces with a “sit-com type of vibe” – is currently being presented by the School of Arts, School of Drama and the Wits Theatre.

After more than 100 years, The Bear and A Marriage Proposal are still applicable to modern South Africa, says Makhaola Ndebele, director of the short plays. As it was then, middle class society is still concerned with “non-issues” in their lives.

“I’m very interested in representational work, situational comedy…the sit-com type of vibe. It resonates with me so much because he [Anton Chekhov] was a Russian from the 1800s, and I just thought, ‘Wow, this is so relevant’.”

Another thing that attracted Ndebele to the work of Chekhov was his way of observing and representing the middle class and land owners.

A Marriage Proposal, Ndebele explains, is about a man who wants to propose to a young woman, but keeps getting distracted. They end up arguing about mundane issues like, who owns a piece of land and who has the better dog.

“I think in our society today there are a lot of people who get concerned with these so-called ‘non-issues’, and miss the bigger picture.”

Starred in Machine Gun Preacher

Ndebele is no stranger to the dramatic arts in South Africa. He is known for his work as creative director on the South African show, Rhythm City, and has starred in movies such as Hijack Stories (2000), Machine Gun Preacher (2011) and Man on Ground (2011). In Machine Gun Preacher he starred alongside Gerard Butler, among others.

“It was a humbling experience…very professional and very exciting to be part of such as huge project.”

He recently decided to study for a masters in dramatic arts, while lecturing at Wits. “Learning is an on-going thing… after so many years in the industry, I decided I wanted to teach and doing a masters kind of enables me to investigate and research new areas of performance that I have not previously done.”

Luke, played by Michael Mazibuko, begs Ms Popova (Gaosi Raditholo) to stop mourning the death of her husband and step outside. (The Bear)

Lomov, portrayed by Gamelihle Bovana, proposes to Natasha, played by Emma Tollman, in A Marriage Proposal.

SKA: “A wonderful boom for Africa, through science”

SKA: “A wonderful boom for Africa, through science”

South Africa is ready to host the world’s most powerful radio telescope. That was the message Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology, wanted the world to hear.

SKA: “What a wonderful boom for Africa, through science, ” said minister of Science & Technology, Naledi Pandor. PHOTO: ANINA MINNAAR

She was speaking at a media briefing held on Thursday, 29 March 2012, by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the South African Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project team and the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF).

The SKA Founding Board had been expected to announce a final decision on the SKA host country next week. Instead, the meetings on April 3rd  and 4th would address concerns and finalise the site selection process, said DST Director General, Dr Phil Mjwara, and SA SKA Director, Dr Bernie Fanaroff.

But Pandor insisted that South Africa would push for a final answer. “Our site is better…We think we’ll be a brilliant decision.”

She said the benefits of the SKA project to South Africa would mainly be in the form of human capital. “Expanding the number of Africa’s scientists and technicians will allow South Africa and Africa to play an increasingly important role in the global knowledge economy.”

Almost 400 postdoctoral, PhD, Masters and undergraduate SKA bursaries have already been awarded to South African and African students since 2005. Two Wits students were among this year’s bursary recipients.

The SKA facility will also generate employment in infrastructure construction and, along with other large-scale astronomy facilities like the MEERKAT, will attract tourists and drive socio-economic development.

When asked what would happen if South Africa  was not chosen as the host, the minister replied: “Plan A: we are ready to host the SKA. Plan B: we are ready to host the SKA. Plan C: we are ready to host the SKA”.

Wits is home to one of the seven SKA research chairs, Prof Sergio Colafrancesco, chair in radio astronomy. Colafrancesco is currently abroad supporting South Africa’s SKA bid and was unavailable for comment.

The panel from left to right: Dr Bernie Fanaroff, Minister Naledi Pandor and Dr Phil Mjwara. PHOTO: ANINA MINNAAR

The young and the hairless

Balding or the loss of hair, which has always been a condition associated with men in their 30s or older, is starting to affect men barely in their 20s.

According to one of the leading hair loss specialists in South Africa, Dr Kevin Alexander (, one reason for this increased incidence of hair loss among younger men, is the fact that there are increased stresses placed on these men in today’s society.

Brendan Roane, a 25-year-old former Wits student started losing his hair about 4 years ago and it has gotten worse. He hasn’t bothered with treatment: “there’s not much you can do about it, unless you get surgery which I’m not keen on”. When he consulted his doctor, he said “you’re screwed”.

Male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss in men. It is characterised by a patterned hair loss which starts above one’s temples. This condition can start developing any time after puberty which is when blood levels of the hormone testosterone increase.

Image showing an example of male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia. Source

Alexander said he saw negative implications in hair loss among his young patients. He said it was “psychologically devastating” for them.  “They lose confidence since baldness can make you look 10-20 years older…they become the butt of jokes.” There are negative impacts for them socially and in the workplace.

A 22-year-old Wits student who wanted to remain anonymous said he started noticing his receding hairline when he was 15. He wanted to have dreadlocks but couldn’t because of his hair loss. After trying different products such a creams and sprays, he has resorted to shaving all of his hair off to hide his condition.

“Losing my hair made me seem old so I just started shaving my hair every second day,” he said.

Although his hair loss had affected him negatively in the past, his confidence has improved because his “chiskop” has given him a unique identity.


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