‘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  
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_4057-scaled.jpeg
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.

Exhibition: Space Kid waits in limbo, with no place to call home 

Fourth-year Wits fine arts student uses Afro-futurism to engage issues of migration and feelings of displacement in an award-winning mixed media installation 

Rumbo Mercy was named this year’s winner of the Wits Young Artist Awards, for her work titled, platform Omega: awaiting the twilight train — which uses mixed media in an afro-futuristic installation of a space traveler, looking to belong.   

In the exhibition, the space traveler, named Space Kid is suspended in the air, with a green suit and an astronaut’s helmet, floating about with fish moving all around her. It looks like she is floating in a fishbowl. There is a pair of shackles beneath her feet and in front of her, there is an old suitcase with her belongings.  

Part of Rumbo Mercy’s art installation is this old briefcase carrying Space Kid’s belongings. Photo: Moronga Masebe.

The show also used video and narration to tell the story of Space Kid waiting at a train station, on her way to a planet of outcasts, leaving behind Alcyone, a star on which she never really felt at home. 

In the exhibition the narrator explains that Space Kid was born with the inability to be held down by gravity, in a world where belonging is legitimised by being weighted. However, Space Kid had to wear metallic chains around her ankles that added humiliation to the pain of not being weighted – like others.  

On why it looks like she is floating in a fishbowl, Mercy said that because fish live in water, they are probably unaware of the water, like we are not aware of the air we breathe. But if we were to flip that around, fish will start grasping for air which will make them aware of their surroundings. 

The work was inspired by Mercy’s background of being a daughter of Malawian parents, who came to South Africa, for greener pastures, before she was born. “I have always felt disconnected from South African cultures because I don’t know them, but also, I didn’t know my Malawian side because we didn’t live there”, she said.  

She refers to this as being in a state of “liminality,” which is a psychology term that describes the feeling of being in between two states but not quite belonging to either. 

Mercy’s work grapples with ideas and feelings of displacement, migration and belonging in an imaginative way, without the usual political connotations that sometimes muddle the conversation.  

However, Mercy recognises that her choice of topics is not easy to tell in ways that does not trigger xenophobic sentiments; and she is using her art, to express her experiences in a way that lends itself to more objective interpretations. 

Reshma Chhiba, the curator of the exhibition at The Point of Order – an art gallery that is part of the Wits fine art department told Wits Vuvuzela that Mercy’s art installation was picked from a list of 10 finalists at a ceremony held at the gallery. 

“It did come down to Rumbo in a very clear manner,” she said, while explaining that her work plays on a “African futurism that allows for a fictionalization and imagination,” which was exciting to see.    

She said that this year, they had 113 students who submitted their work, and the selector, Same Mdluli, who is the curator and manager of the Standard Bank Gallery, shortlisted the ten finalists, and 3 independent adjudicators named Mercy’s installation as this year’s winner on July 20, 2023.   

Chhiba said that the purpose of the Wits Young Artist Awards is to “recognise artistic excellence within the undergrad cohort…open [only] to third and fourth-year undergraduates of the fine art programme.” 

Space Kid’s story is being exhibited online, via the WYAA website. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Rumbo Mercy, winner of the Wits Young Artist Awards 2023, looking up at her Space Kid sculpture. Photo: Morongoa Masebe


WAM exhibition: An erectile dysfunction, makes sad boys worldwide   

Newly Wits PhD graduate uses art to explore the toxicity of fragile masculinity

Nicola Genovese has thrust the issues of fragile masculinity back in the public arena with his exhibition, Sad Boy —   which looks at the weight men carry as they are expected to perform being masculine.  

Genovese is an Italian/Swiss born artist that recently graduated with his PhD in Fine Arts at Wits. His work is mostly focused on videos, sculptural works, and performances in which he explores issues of masculinity, identity politics and power dynamics in relationships. 

The exhibition at the Wits Art Museum, which took place on August 1 was opened with a two-part performance. The first part of it was a reading of an excerpt from his research thesis on the working-class masculinity in the Northern parts of Italy, followed by a poem about the male body and erectile dysfunction. While the performance was taking place, audiences were surrounded by sculptures that attempted to showcase this fragility.  

Genovese reading his text on fragility and erectile dysfunction. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

One of the sculptures was placed on Genovese arm, which represented a male’s genital. He had his t-shirt tucked in and his belly sticking out, while flapping the object up and down as he spoke about the function of male genitals. 

Genovese told Wits Vuvuzela that the first part of his showcase focused on the representation of the “emo punk attitude from the 90s kids” where being sad and depressed looked cool; and the second one looked at the shame men carry when faced with genitals that are not working as they should.  

“We are talking about a part of the body that has to work…This was a way to show the ambivalence that it’s massive but also fragile and soft through the use of the metal sheet material that is metallic but also extremely soft that I used in the arm” Genovese said, when he was talking about what the arm represented in his performance. 

Christo Doherty, the supervisor of Genovese for his PhD thesis said that “It’s been quite a trip [working with him] because he is a very challenging artist that is working in the gender, sexuality area… he’s been exploring and critiquing masculinity but as a straight white male”.  

BA General student Hope Nesengane who was attending, said, “I appreciate how well rounded it was, the multimedia, the video element and sculptural pieces made the diversity of it interesting, and I thought the performance was also great.” 

FEATURED IMAGE: Genovese performing his text piece for the audience.Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho


Art and science collide at the University of Johannesburg 

Africa’s first ever Bio-art exhibition pulls in a large crowd of enthusiasts 

The Creative Microbiology Research Co-Lab (CMRC) has introduced biotechnological art (bior-art)– the use of living and non living matter such as, bacteria, yeast and wet biological practices to create art for South African audiences – at the faculty of Art, Design and Architecture’s gallery at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). 

The exhibition, which is the first of its kind on the continent, aims to establish the practice of bio art in Africa, while interrogating the relationship between humans and the environment. 

The gallery was filled with artworks by nine UJ artists and scientists, physically exhibiting in the space.

Upon entering the gallery, people were met with Dr Nathaniel Stern’s art piece, The wall after us which was littered with electronic waste and botanical installations. 

VIAD team member Sinead Fletcher setting up The wall after us. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

Professor Leora Farber, co-founders of the CMRC together with Professor Tobias Barnard said: “This [exhibition] has been three years in the making, something that I passionately wanted, I did a five-month residency at a very prestigious bio-art laboratory in Perth at the University of Western Australia. I came back and thought [to myself], we just gotta have this and we’ve got all the facilities- so for me, this is a very special night.”   

The crowd was especially drawn to a work showing hands on which live bacteria were growing by Barnard titled, Come dine with us. This had a rotting stench which he attributed to the acidic contents and the fermentation stage.  

He explained that after Covid-19, people stopped washing their hands, and he wanted to illustrate to them how bacteria can find a home on human skin through touching everyday surfaces. He added that, “People don’t understand microbiology because its abstract, you can’t see it. So, we thought how we could show you what would grow on your hands if you didn’t wash them?”  

A picture of the Come dine with us exhibition showing a hand covered in bacteria at its rotting stage. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

Another enthralling work on the exhibition was CEION, the growing room, by Nolan Oswald Dennis because of its purplish fluorescent light. This room had a collection of Southern African wildflower seeds which were cultivated between the pages of Sister Outsider a book by feminist, queer black Audrey Lourde, translated into Sesotho.

Art enthusiasts exploring the growing room by Oswald Dennis. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

The exhibition marked the launch of CMRC bioart laboratory in the FADA building. Barnard, and architectural inventor, Xylan de Jager said that they hope to expand the space if granted funding. 

The UJ Vice Chancellor, Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi told Wits Vuvuzela that he was impressed with the event. “This exhibition emerges as a message of triumph and hope, it spurs us to embrace a journey of exploration and witness how interdisciplinary approaches blur the lines between traditional disciplines and transcend boundaries”, said Mpedi.  

UJ Vice Chancellor Professor, Letlhokwa Mpedi giving an opening speech at FADA Gallery. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

The exhibition started on July 20, and it will end on August 19, 2023, with special walkabouts with the artists on July 22 and August 5, 2023.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Art enthusiasts walking past a Brenton Maart exhibition. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov


Ahmed Kathrada’s legacy memorialised

The struggle veteran’s 93rd birthday sees the opening of an exhibition, chronicling both his his life and legacy.

Dozens gathered at the Constitution Hill in Braamfontein on Sunday, August 21, 2022 to honour anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada with a special collection of personal artefacts and imagery.

The Ahmed Kathrada foundation hosted esteemed guests at the Old Fort section of the historical monument in celebration of the life lived by “Kathy” or “Uncle Kathy”, as he was fondly known. Among attendees were Kathrada’s wife, Barbara Hogan. 

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela at the exhibition entrance, the Kathrada Foundation’s director, Neeshan Balton said: “[The exhibition] hopes to tell the story of the liberation struggle… it also hopes to get people to experience what living in prison on Robben Island would’ve been like.” He added that the exhibition shows that “freedom and any struggle to be achieved can’t be work overnight, it requires work over generations”.

“Seeing this exhibition in his honour not only gives the family hope but the world hope that his fight for freedom and non-racialism will continue,” said Yusuf Areignton-Kathrada.

From his favourite brown checkered blazer and black slip-ons to a addressed letter to former president Jacob Zuma, and a replica of his prison cell – the exhibition shows the highs and lows of Kathrada’s life.

Kathrada had served as a parliamentary counsellor to the late Nelson Mandela during his presidential tenure before his passing in 2017. The two had been in prison together at Robben Island before Kathrada was transferred to Pollsmoor prison from which he was released in 1990.

Reflecting on Kathrada’s life, speakers went as far as when he was 17 years old starting out as an activist against the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act. Despite having held many leadership positions by the end of his tertiary life, “he knew that the struggle had not ended,” said Irfaan Mangera, one of the foundation’s activists. Mangera remembered Kathrada as an outspoken activist who was respected regardless of his young age among his fellow activists.

The South African Revenue Services commissioner, Edward Kieswetter reminisced on the day Kathrada died as he stood beside him in hospital. Kieswetter said, in his last days, Kathrada’s fight had lost spirit as the new generation leaders “were failing to honour the promise of our constitution, to heal the wounds of the past and to establish a democratic society”.

The permanent exhibition will be accessible to the public during normal trading hours.

FEATURED IMAGE: An attendant of the exhibition glaring at the wall detailing the struggle veteran’s last years’ on earth. Photo: Keamogetswe Matlala