The University of Cape Town’s Works of Art Committee (WoAC) will host an exhibition titled We’ve come to take you home #1 at the Michaelis Galleries from 14 February to 24 March 2020. The exhibition is curated by WoAC committee member and recent UCT graduate, Amogelang Maledu.

The exhibition serves as a point of reflection, following the student protests that challenged the status quo of universities in South Africa, including challenging artistic representation and curation on campuses. We’ve come to take you home #1 will showcase some of the committee’s recently acquired artworks from 22 artists. Founded in the 1920’s, the university’s art collection in 2016 consisted 79.1% of artworks by white artists – this exhibition seeks to showcase the germination of transformative and inclusive art collection practices which UCT has committed itself to. The exhibition features a selection of the works acquired by UCT in 2018 and 2019.

The exhibition’s title, We’ve come to take you home #1, is multifold. It is both an intertextual reference of other important works of art, namely: WE’VE COME TO TAKE YOU HOME (A DIANA FERRUS TRIBUTE) (2018) by Lady Skollie and Diana Ferrus’ poem I’ve Come To Take You Home (1998). The title also resonates with the current social themes of the migration of people, as well as relocation of art and objects, where artistic and cultural institutions are grappling with topics such as repatriation of objects looted during the colonial period. We’ve come to take you home #1 will feature mostly contemporary art acquisitions by some of Africa’s important artistic voices. This includes work by Lady Skollie (Laura Windvogel) – who recently designed South Africa’s new R5 and R50 commemorative coins celebrating the country’s 25 years of constitutional democracy. Also featured are Nobukho Nqaba’s photographs exploring her oeuvre of the effects of migration; Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum’s futurist and coded works on paper and Mashudu Nevhutalu warm and nostalgic paintings inspired by personal family photographs.

The exhibition includes seven impressive colour lithographs from acclaimed artist Helen Sibidi who continues to inspire a legion of artists in the country. Amongst other UCT Michaelis Fine Art alumni in the exhibition, recent graduates Abongile Sidzumo, Akudzwe Elsie Chiwa, Malwande Mthetwa and Bulumko Mbete have produced work dealing with embedded knowledge and symbolism of select materials. The exhibition highlights the notion of transformation as one that is not a simple rectifying of numbers. The depth and quality of the works presented attest to global, contemporary art practices of re-looking at art and artists that have barely been visible through selection processes that have been skewed by race, class and gender prejudice.

Closer to home, the exhibition underscores the urgency of UCT’s current cultural and artistic mandate, inspiring further crucial discussions of inclusive artistic practice in institutions of higher learning that have emerged from a legacy of colonialism and apartheid. Here, with the poetic urgency and inspiration of Ferrus/Skollie, UCT confronts its responsibility without negating how this discussion is similarly situated in broader contemporary debates of the various power dynamics involved in the lives and movements of art and objects.

The exhibition will be followed by We’ve come to take you home #2, highlighting further new acquisitions, and more public engagements, hosted at the Irma Stern Museum in March/April 2020.