‘Re-Weaving Mother’: An exhibition on existence

The Wits Origin Center is hosting Bev Butkow’s Re-weaving Mother exhibit, which showcases a collection of artworks that explores the question of how humans exist in this world and what they leave behind. 

South African artist, Bev Butkow, who has showcased her work worldwide has brought her new project on display in her second solo exhibit at the Wits Origin Centre on August 20, 2023. 

The exhibition titled, Re-Weaving Mother shows a body of abstract, woven, stitched, painted, and mixed media sculptures, artworks on canvases and fabric that draped over concrete pillars. The exhibit managed to take a dark and gloomy centre and turned it into a beautiful spectacle of colour and life. 

As art lovers walked through the entrance, they were ushered in by draping elaborate fabrics – it was like entering a material jungle and artworks were waiting to be discovered. There were different lights filling each space in the room and each piece was made of different textures and colours.

An artwork linked to Surface Play by Bev Butkow, showcased in the ‘Re-Weaving Mother‘ exhibit opening on August 20, 2023. Photo: Georgia Cartwright

Butkow holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Wits University and made a bold move from a successful corporate career in finance to become an artist. She said her current work is inspired by learning a new and different way to exist in the world.  

She described her art as “nurturing” and “caring,” harboring different elements of the human body and art mixed into one. She added that her work represented, “the value of women’s labour [and] the traces we leave and the impact we make”.

Butkow told Wits Vuvuzela that she believes, “creativity is the new intellectual frontier,” and added that art creates “new possibilities around how we engage in the world and how we exist together in community.” 

Many people came to view the new exhibit, this included art lover Meaghan Pogue who said the artworks made her feel a sense of “comfort” because the material used on the hanging sculptures were made from a soft and “recognizable” fabric. You can almost feel a sense of home with some of the pieces as if they are woven from memory. 

Each person may experience the exhibition differently but from interaction with the artwork in form of sight and touch, Butkow seemingly showcased new ways of being and engaging with the world through her art. 

The Re-Weaving Mother exhibit will be showcased at the Origin Center until September 30, 2023. There will be creative gatherings on the: 

  • Body and Art: August 30 
  • A Material Uprising: September 06
  • The value of Women’s Labour: September 12 
  • Traces We Leave Upon the Earth: September 14  
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Writer and Arts Journalist David Mann admiring Echoes of Process
by Bev Butkow at the ‘Re-Weaving Mother‘ exhibit. Photo: Georgia Cartwright

FEATURED IMAGE: Ley Lines and other Networks of Care by Bev Butkow in her exhibit “Re-Weaving Mother” on August 20, 2023. Photo: Georgia Cartwright


Funding the revival of the Wits fine arts tradition

Fourth year fine arts students learn the organisational and financial aspects of being an artist.

The Wits Fine Arts department’s graduating class hosted the New Work Auction at the Point of Order gallery on August 10, to raise funds for the print of their first physical catalogue in four years, since disruptions during the covid-19 pandemic.

Reshma Chhiba, curator at the Point of Order, told Wits Vuvuzela that at the end of the fourth year of the fine arts degree, the class is graded through a New Work exhibition at the Wits Art Museum, and a printed graduation catalogue.

The evening started out with a silent auction (where bids were written on a piece of paper) and was followed by a live auction (where an auctioneer called for bids). The auction exhibition featured artwork by both students and staff.

Student placing a bid in the silent auction. The Wits fine arts department fundraising auction was held at The Point of Order gallery in Braamfontein. Photo: Morongoa Masebe.

Simangaliso Sibiya, who is part of the fine arts honours class, said that his colleagues had placed starting bids as low as R50, and the live auction helped get as much out of the auction as possible. By the end of the live auction, the highest bid was R3500.

Sibiya’s auctioned work was a portrait of the late Bhekizizwe Peterson, who was a professor in the Wits African Literature department. A tribute to Peterson for a recommendation that influenced Sibiya’s entry into the fine arts programme. In the portrait, Peterson is surrounded by a circle of dancing children and a border of QR codes, both symbolising that his contributions, will live in the future.

Sibiya said he appreciates the New Works Project because it teaches them one of many ways to make an income from their work.

Chhiba also said that the New Work project facilitates the development of some skills that the students will need when they begin work as professional artists. Because this is a student-led fundraising initiative, they get to learn the organisational and financial aspects of being an artist.

Masindi Mbolekwa, who was part of the organising team, and whose work was also part of the auction, said that it was significant in teaching him “how to navigate these kinds of spaces, how to talk to people, how to engage with people when they are interested in the work.”

The New Work exhibition will be showing at the Wits Art Museum in November of this year.

Simangaliso Sibiya’s portrait of Bhekezizwe Peterson hangs on a wall, surrounded by people viewing and bidding for artwork, at the Wits fine arts department’s New Work auction. Photo: Morongoa Masebe.

FEATURED IMAGE: Image of a bid sheet for the silent auction at The Point of Order gallery, where the Wits fine arts department held their fundraising auction. Photo: Morongoa Masebe


Wits Vuvuzela, Wits Fine Art students raise funds with Pungwe, April 2015.

Shadow Voices: a sonic exploration of schizophrenia 

Exhibition offers visitors an opportunity to experience what it is like to have schizophrenia. 

The Wits Origins Centre Museum’s latest exhibition Shadow Voices seeks to raise awareness about schizophrenia. 

Shadow Voices was a week-long sound installation (July 31 to August 5) crafted by MMus (Master in Music Student) student Annemie Du Plessis, music psychotherapist Karin Meyer, and poet Dan Hoeweler. It explored the profound experiences of those living with the mental disorder.  

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that is characterized by continuous or relapsing episodes of psychosis. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behaviour that impairs daily functioning and can be disabling. 

The exhibition uses sound that people can listen to through headphones to allow them to experience what it is like to have “voices in your head”. It mimics one of the realities of a person living with schizophrenia.  

Du Plessis told Wits Vuvuzela that “given the stigma often associated, we wanted to do a sound installation that would help create awareness about schizophrenia symptomatology” [the set of symptoms that are associated with a medical condition]. 

“Sound installations can be a powerful medium to allow for immersive experiences, it supports the narratives of music therapy as part of a treatment and support for people living with schizophrenia,” said Du Plessis.

According to a 2022 report by the WHO, schizophrenia affects approximately 24 million people, or one in 300 people (0.32%) worldwide. This rate is one in 222 people (0.45%) among adults.

According to Dr Mvuyiso Talatala of the South African Society of Psychiatrists (Sasop), in an article published by the Daily Maverick  in July 2023, schizophrenia affects only about 1% of the population of the South African population. He said, “schizophrenia is a disease of young people, with about 90% of people with the disease first showing signs before the age of 25.” 

The Origins Centre Museum’s curator Tammy Hodgskiss Reynard told Wits Vuvuzela that what makes Shadow Voices different is that “exhibitions are often visually focused and this one forces you to listen and use other senses.” 

Music psychotherapist Meyer believes that music therapy can be very effective in treating mental health concerns. Music therapy is the practice in which a therapist uses clinical and evidence-based music interventions to accomplish unique and individualised goals within a therapeutic relationship. 

She said, “Music can naturally lift our moods and, when used intentionally it becomes a tool for processing emotional difficulties.” She adds that “research has shown the benefits of music therapy for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, et cetera.” 

It is believed that music therapy can be used as an aid in the treatment process of different forms of mental illness.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Visitor and student, Aphelele Mbokotho listening to the sound installation which mimicks having voices in your head. Photo: Sbongile Molambo


Sole Purpose brings local artists and entrepreneurs together 

Inspired by Ricky Rick’s Cotton Fest, Young creatives give local brands a platform.  

Sole Purpose hosted a pop-up store event, bringing together local artists to perform and local brands to sell their wares at Homeground restaurant, in Braamfontein. 

Pop-up store at the Sole Purpose event and attendees having drinks and socializing.
Photo: Sinazo Mondo

This pop-up store experience was co-founded  by Shaun Nzwakhe Gomeza and Nkhensani Mashimane in December, 2021. “We are an initiative that supports local artists, creatives and entrepreneurs by providing a platform and atmosphere for people to network and socialize,” their website reads.  

The sixth iteration of  Sole Purpose  took place on May 27, 2023. New local brands such as Projext, a clothing brand and Avitality (Born to Move), a gym wear clothing brand popped up for the first time. While clothing brands Deity Artisty art painting , Freak sins, Co lounge and Narty returned to the market. 

The musical talent included Tiller Sax, Lwaazii and Fried.HZ who provided live music throughout the afternoon.   

From left to right, photographer, Dj Alsi Paq and Co-founder of Sole Purpose Nkhensani Mashimane at the deck inside Homeground restaurant.
Photo: Sinazo Mondo

Anelisa Mnyweba (24) who attended the event said:  “I love the local gin brand Egoli, that I just tried for the first time, the music and performances were good and I’ve bought myself a few beautiful items from the local brands.” 

Creative director and owner of Born to Move, Avela Sisilana said, “I love that my brand is being recognised and its name is out there now. It’s been two hours and I haven’t made any sales yet but that’s mainly because my brand is specific as it is gym wear. I’m more here for branding than making sales.” 

Ntsako Ntimane owner of Deity Artisty said, “I started painting four years ago and this is my first time actually putting myself out there, I had my first exhibition with Sole purpose in March this year… I’ve made sales and connections today thanks to Sole purpose.” 

The event continued till late with vendors packing up at 17:00, while the owners, artists and creatives socialized over drinks. The mood quickly moved from chilled to upbeat as local artist, DJ Alsi Paq(22) ushered in the night with Amapiano hits.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Deity Artistry showcasing art work at the pop-up store with attendees admiring. Photo: Sinazo Mondo


REVIEW: Keeping play and art alive in the city

The exceptional childlike fusion of art forms enabled the audience to have encounters with our material conditions through art.   

Created by the renowned Jade Bowers (director), Lebo Mashile, Tina Redman (performers) and Yogen Sullaphen (musician), the site-staged work took to Nugget Street outside the Windybrow Arts Centre in Hillbrow from April 20 till April 22, 2023. The theatre work was produced by the University of Johannesburg Arts and Culture division and the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS), and aimed at young audiences although with a broader appeal to people of all ages.  

Bowers, Mashile, Redman and UJ Arts and Culture students created childhood experiences of living in Johannesburg with all their innocence, naivety and boundless play. 

In a press release, UJ Arts and Culture said that Breaths of Joburg was part of a “larger research project that considered creative writing and site-specific theatre as tools for engaging urban publics in dialogue about every day, ground-up, place-making in city spaces”.

Lead researcher Alex Halligey told Wits Vuvuzela that a “smaller model of the research project asks the questions of how we use creative arts, how you can see something in the city and write a poem about it”.  

The Windybrow Arts Centre mostly draws in young people coming from school who use the centre as a place of play and diversion from the stresses of living in the city. Promoting access to art for everyone, Breaths of Joburg enabled the audience to have encounters with our material conditions through art.  

The performances, which were outside the arts centre, attracted children coming from school, students and adults, who lined the wall fence, settled on the pavement and on the theatre’s steps that lead to the street to resemble a theatre in the round.  

Using short and immersive acts, the actors took the audience to a Johannesburg familiar to me – from late night encounters to the vibrant economy of the city run by street vendors, hairdressers and taxi drivers who can take you almost anywhere in the city. 

This Johannesburg is Sindi’s and Babes’ world, two little girls played by Mashile and Redman respectively. The production used plastic beer crates as props and the performers’ creativity to create this world and the characters’ transition from childhood to adulthood. 

Babes (Tina Redman) and Sindi (Lebo Mashile) perform for an audience of schoolchildren at Windybrow Arts Centre. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini

“The show is about them (Sindi and Babes) travelling through the city. They want to learn how to make money, and we are those adults,” Redman told Wits Vuvuzela.

The actors had tough conversations with the audience as they explored themes that could be deemed complicated for young children to digest such as crime, death and sex work. However, Redman and Mashile and the student actors gained the young children’s attention with animated singing, dancing and hand-clapping games. 

Mashile captured the audience with her spirited spoken-word performance while the rest of the cast huddled quietly around her, moving in ways that symbolised air and a flowing river. She spoke about how Johannesburg was land that had rivers and fed its people before “they” (colonialists) “discovered” gold. It was an effortless transition of the child into the world of adults that they were trying to convey. 

After the three-day run at the Windybrow Arts Centre, Halligey said, “We are looking for funding to do Breaths of Joburg again and opportunities to do projects that are similar to what we did with Breaths of Joburg.”

Vuvu rating: 9/10

FEATURED IMAGE: Babes plays a monster chasing Sindi around the streets of Joburg. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini


New manifesto aims to save museums

A newly launched manifesto hopes to save and preserve museums, galleries, and cultural sites in Johannesburg.   

Curators at several museums and galleries in Gauteng’s cultural hub used international museum day, to highlight the precarious situation they face as a result of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. 

The manifesto is a collective effort, drafted and supported by institutions like the Apartheid Museum, Friends of Johannesburg Art gallery, the Johannesburg heritage foundation, Wit’s Origin Centre and the Constitution Hill, to name a few.  

The two-page document calls for a social compact between political parties, the business community, civil society organisations and the public at large, to make a commitment to recover, protect, and manage public art institutions.  

The manifesto points out that museums which house South Africa’s treasures and history faced extreme challenges prior to covid-19, but the pandemic has only hastened their decline. Several important art and historical institutions are on the brink of permanent closure if they don’t get help soon. 

International museum day, hosted annually on May 18, is an initiative by the international council of museums (ICOM) to raise awareness about the importance of museums as institutions for cultural exchange and enrichment. 

This year’s theme was ‘recover and reimagine’ which encouraged museums and communities to create, imagine and share new practices of co-creation for social, economic, and environmental challenges. 

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to Steven Sack, an independent artist and one of the curators that assisted in drafting the manifesto. Sack says the catalyst for drafting a manifesto, was the flooding at Museum Africa in November 2020. During a burglary, a thief stole a sink and broke a tap, causing the whole west wing of the museum to flood, and causing water damage to more than 100 photographs.

Coverage by the media on the closure of museums and sites like Liliesleaf farm and Mandela House further highlighted the need for action. “It struck me that we needed to lobby – [before the local government election]- political parties and get them to make a commitment to museums and it seems the best way to do that was to write a manifesto”, says Sack. 

The aim is to get parties to respond and endorse the manifesto to secure better deals for museums in the future. “We are asking political parties to make it a priority, that these are important institutions that need support”, Sack adds.

All museums built post-1994, which document the liberation struggle and stories of the marginalised communities in South Africa, like the Apartheid Museum and Mandela House, haven’t been able to re-open, because they’ve been set up as private and semi-private museums. Their well-being is dependent on feet through the doors, says Sack. The manifesto addresses these issues and wishes to prevent museums from having to be in this vulnerable position in the first place. 

Dr Tammy Reynard from the Wits Origins Centre and Janine Muthusamy, marketing and communication manager at Constitution Hill share Sack’s sentiments. “We have done huge revamps and maintenance work in the museum and updated the narratives and displays – histories are constantly changing and museums need to be at the forefront of those changes”, say Reynard. The origins centre has also created an augmented reality experience and offers online seminars and museum tours to pivot during the pandemic.  

According to Muthusamy, Constitution Hill has reimagined itself by repurposing museum spaces to support local NGO’s, education and creative sectors  

The social compact and programme of action will be made public on September 24, 2021, on Heritage Day, which will request a report on the state of the City of Johannesburg’s museums and galleries.

FEATURED IMAGE: Priorities and action stated in the Johannesburg manifesto. Photo: Supplied.