The Public Face of African Scholarship: Lecture Series (Sep-Nov 2007)



Over the last decade the concept of visuality has gained increasing interest and attention. We tend to take for granted the existence of images not just in the material world but in our (image)inations. But immediately we begin to think about what images are and what they do, we are confronted with a mass of difficulties about not just pictures and our view of the external world, but the images that we create within our minds. While these lectures have been conceptualised within the framework of debates around visuality, they are not so specialised as to alienate a general audience. Indeed they are situated in the world with which we are familiar. They build on photographic material from our own province, KwaZulu-Natal.

Remembering the Rebellion

The Zulu or Bhambatha Rebellion took place from February to July 1906. To commemorate the centenary, Jeff Guy wrote and compiled a series of twelve articles. These appeared as newspaper supplements to The Witness (in English) and The Echo, Ilanga and UmAfrika (in isiZulu) and distributed free to schools throughout the KwaZulu-Natal. This successful educational project was the fruit of unique collaboration between Jeff Guy, the newspapers, the Department of Education and the Office of the Premier. It is hoped this fruitful partnership will be renewed in order to produce other series of articles on historical themes. Jeff Guy and artist and archaeologist Justine Wintjes have already begun work on a new theme, 'The Foundations of African Society', examining the question, 'What is African?' and drawing from sources such as history, archaeology, genetics and philosophy, on a scale of millions of years as opposed to hundreds. The educational material, a work-in-progress comprising texts and original illustrations, is currently being developed and used to accompany the History Honours course 'The Foundations of African society' during the 1st semester of 2007 (January-June) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Foundations of African Society (History Honours Course 2007)

Jeff Guy is currently lecturing this History Honours course (HIST704HC) at UKZN.
Course description:
The Press, the Heritage and Tourism industry, and uncritical nationalism enthusiastically promote the idea of South Africa generally and the World Heritage Site at Sterkfontein in particular as 'The Cradle of Humankind'. This course uses evidence from microbiology, linguistics, archaeology and history to get beyond the hype. By firmly situating our study of race, evolution, genetics, technology and art within a time scale of millions rather than hundreds of years, we examine critically different ideas on African origins. In the process, we confront that urgent and controversial contemporary question, 'What is African?'


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The Mashu Museum of Ethnology and Jo Thorpe Collection

The establishment of a museum of African culture situated in Durban was the ideal of William Campbell.1 It was with this in mind that he and his sister Killie initiated what has become an extensive collection of material cultural artifacts, including metal-work, pottery, woodwork, basketry, musical instruments, costume and beadwork, from all the indigenous cultures of southern Africa.

Shaka basket



Mid 20th-Century African Art

Killie Campbell as patron of the arts

"neglected tradition", p38
African graphic artists and painters have been accepted into mainstream art only since the 1988 exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery:

The neglected tradition: towards a new history of South African art (1930-1988)

Curator Steven Sack says of his attempt to find representative early works: "A significant amount of the work dating from this period is found in various cultural history museums or in private collections... (like) the Africana Museum in Johannesburg (and) the Killie Campbell Africana Library... Almost all the major public art collections, on the other hand, include nothing by black artists prior to the work of Gerard Sekoto." 1

Contemporary Art

The extensive collection of contemporary African art focuses upon artists with links to KwaZulu-Natal. Killie started by collecting the works of the earlier generation of artists like Gerard Bhengu, Simon Mnguni and the Ntuli brothers. The University of KwaZulu-Natal has continued to add to the holdings of contemporary African art. The donation of the Jo Thorpe Collection, which holds works by artists who sold through the Durban African Art Centre, must make the holdings of African art housed at Muckelneuk one of the best in South Africa. Art historian, E.J. De Jager commented that, in the majority of cases, contemporary African artists concern themselves with man in his human situation and this art idiom can be termed "figurative expressionism." 1


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