‘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


Ignore the noise to get to the top  

Trailblazing women encourage young women to challenge patriarchal norms.

“Being a black woman is extremely difficult especially when you get to the top, because the assumption is that you slept your way to it,” these were the words of former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.  

She was speaking at the Women in Leadership symposium held at the Wits Senate room on August 22, where the theme ‘Dare to lead’ was aimed at encouraging young women to assume positions of power without fear.  

Along with Phakeng, The Wits School of Social Sciences invited speaker of the Johannesburg City Council Collen Makhubele, Group executive director in mining, Sibu Majozi and Policy advisor, Lutfiyya Dean to the women month event.

Attendees were eager to know about tackling power dynamics and sexism in the workspace, which panellists addressed as they delved into their personal experiences. 

Majozi argued that women need to understand that they live in a post-colonial and patriarchal world, but they must rise above the entrenched system. “You need to earn the right [to take on a leadership position] especially if you’re a black woman,” said Majozi.  

Emphasizing the inherent double standards of patriarchy, Phakeng said the media and the public alike have been overly critical of her over trivial things like dancing.  “There was a male vice chancellor in this country that was charged with gender-based violence at this very university [Wits] but the parents, students and women in this country did not raise their voices,” said Phakeng.  

Attendee, Sibusiso Msibi enquired about the significance of feminism in empowering women, where the panel reached a consensus that the socio-political movement is only relevant to some extent because of its lack of intersectionality and failing to consider ‘the struggles of black women’.  

In response to the fact that women hold 29% senior management positions globally, Makhubele told Wits Vuvuzela that there is clearly something we have not cracked as a society, and it must come from the current generation of young people. “In order to change the political space-we need something more than a feminist movement,” said Makhubele.  

At the end of the seminar, panellists encouraged students to reach out if they need personal mentorship.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng speaking at the women in leadership symposium at Wits University. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov


Sisters in activism  

Combatting performative activism, one activist at a time.  

To celebrate Women’s Month, the Sesi Fellowship and Skill Hub facilitated specialist training for aspiring activists, with the hopes of increasing their level of active citizenship. 

The Generation Equality Fellowship ran over two days, August 5 and 6 at the Bannister Hotel in Braamfontein.  

Generation Equality Fellowship volunteers and trainees at the end of the last session on Saturday, August 5. Photo: Nonhlanhla Mathebula

Project lead, Mpho Rachidi, said Sesi – which translates to ‘sister’ – is focused on sisterhood so they had to ensure that the fellowship catered for women. “[We] wanted the girls to take the skills that they learnt here and implement them in the spaces that they’d find themselves in,” she said. 

When participants were selected, they “looked for beginner to intermediate activists or those who have had exposure to the space but need guidance as to how else they can contribute,” said Rachidi. 

There were various team building exercises and presentations around defining activism and its various forms, personal growth and community development, and the different roles one could occupy as an activist.  

Sesi project lead and manager, Sinoxolo Cakata, said learning about “the different qualities required to become an impactful activist” could help combat performative activism – a term A.F Thimsen described as applying to “instances of shallow or self-serving support of social justice causes”. Performative activists “only talk about the issue when it’s trending and not do anything about it,” said Cakata. 

She created a campaigning activity for the budding activists in which they had to create a hypothetical social justice campaign. Each group had to figure out the role that each member would play in ensuring their campaign’s longevity in relation to their educational background, experiences, skills, and interests.  

One group was given a topic on conscious consumerism, and they came up with a campaign on sustainable fashion in which they would hold fashion retailers accountable for child labour, inhumane working environments and other unethical practices. Each person’s role was determined according to the degree they were pursuing in that a law student would oversee the legal department for instance. 

Third-year Wits law student, Tshegofatso Modiba, told Wits Vuvuzela: “I [applied for] this programme because I wanted to find my own form of activism.” By the end of the day, she discovered that her favourite form was artistic activism (where artists create pieces that evoke emotion and inspire social change). 

Rachidi said more young women “need to use their voice”, and their future projects will be developed with this in mind.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Sesi volunteer, Sibongile Radebe, facilitating a training session. Photo: Nonhlanhla Mathebula