Bachelor of Fine Arts student, Oratile ‘Papi’ Konopi takes over the matrix graffiti wall with the Ene series.
National Science Week presents cutting edge science and technology at Wits University. Prof Adam Habib, Wits Vice-chancellor, opened the event by welcoming students, staff and visitors to the exhibition of innovation by Witsies in the Senate House concourse.
Universal feelings of anxiety and desire are confronted in the latest offering by performing and visual arts student Oupa Sibeko. The one-man contemporary dance piece called ‘Fear and Longing’ attempts to challenge all human emotion.
The 21-year-old student premiered his show at the Roodeport Youth Arts Festival last weekend as part of his physical theatre course based on the “containment of the body”.
“The fear is portrayed in the fragmentation of the self and the longing is the escape”, said Sibeko to describe the visual dance piece whose text relies on audience’s interpretation of the play.
According to Sibeko, his character in the piece has no definite role but is an extension of humanity, relying on human experiences and emotion to tell the story.
“As humans we carry things in outer bodies that we grew up with, that affect how we move and how we interact with people which is body, archive and memory”, said Sibeko who was able to contextualize how the play is able to relate to the audience. .
The play also attempts to reject societies understanding of masculinity by providing a platform to express human vulnerabilities, says Sibeko.
“I had to pay attention to how society defines masculinity and how I define masculinity and the other side of masculinity”, said Sibeko who suggests that the play is inherently vulnerable and open to masculinity.
The dance piece is a combination of a contemporary dance, which includes a traditional Japanese dance style called butoh which “is connected to the soul and the spirit…tracing the human essence,” said Sibeko.
The piece will be showing at the Nunnery at Wits University from the 14th to the 15th of May.
It may look cool, but graffiti is costing Wits University tens of thousands of rands every year.
The removal of graffiti cost the university R88 000 in 2011, up from R38 000 the previous year.
According to Grounds Manager Andries Norval, American films glamorising graffiti have influenced Wits students.
Norval said it is easy to paint over graffiti on a white wall. But with a lot of Wits buildings, the colour is in the plaster, so painting doesn’t work and the patchwork can always be seen.
“You can sandblast if off… using sand that is sprayed under pressure…but if you do it on surfaces like wood and marble, you actually damage the building.”
“Proper graffiti is a work of art.”
Norval made a distinction betweengraffiti and “the squiggles they call tagging”.
“Proper graffiti is a work of art. If it’s done with the proper permission and in the right places, I’ve got no problem with it.”
He pointed out that Wits has a few designated graffiti zones, such as the pedestrian tunnel between East and West Campus, where students can paint without consequences as long as the material is not offensive to anyone.
Clarifying what is and is not allowed, Norval said: “Definitely not political. Definitely not religious. And definitely not contentious.”
Vuvuzela asked Norval what he would say to taggers who argue that the university is curtailing their freedom of expression by restricting them to designated areas.
He replied: “Ask him: if I paint on his car that is parked in a public space…would he like that? Yes or no? And does he not think this money could be better spent on better teaching facilities or fixing lecture venues or even library books?”
Campus Control officer Aaron Ngcongolo agreed: “It’s not good, because this thing is making the place untidy.”
Sharni Hart, an honours marketing student, said: “It’s a campus and it should be kept neat and clean. You can express yourself in another way. You don’t need to write all over campus.”
Several students expressed their appreciation for the graffiti in the designated zones.
As he walked past the colourful murals in the pedestrian tunnel connecting East and West Campus, 1st year economic science student Tarrin Skeepers said: “This is one of my favourite spots at Wits. Period. Because I just love the artwork. I just love the creativity.”
Ngoni Goba, a 1st year LLB student said: “It gives the university a youthful feel.”
Norval could not speak about the situation at other universities in South Africa, except to say that he visited the Soweto Campus of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and saw no graffiti there. The UJ officials he spoke to told them that they do not have a problem with graffiti.
- An American university also faces high graffiti removal costs
- An Australian city’s art programme to prevent graffiti
- Aghan artists use graffiti to fight war and oppression
- A South African graffiti artist moves from walls to high-end galleries
See more graffiti from the Braamfontein area of Johannesburg