Uniquely South African art to help Matie students in need

The Senegal Woman, 1973, Oil on board, by Gerard Jan Sekoto, of the Fort Hare University art collection.

Stellenbosch is the scene of a uniquely South African art response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and as a result of this initiative, bursary students studying at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU), are set to benefit.

Artworks are on display at a number of sites around town, aptly named Masked Masterpieces.

Masks will be superimposed on famous South African artworks that are displayed outdoors in supersized format, providing a powerful visual reflection of the challenges of our time.

The artists’ stories are on plaques alongside the artworks, as well as information about the artworks, where the original artworks can be viewed, and how to make a study donation by way of a SnapScan code or bank transfer.

These donations will be administered by SU and will assist in funding bursary students who have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The art installations that will be on display until December, will be entirely funded by the private sector: the Beck Family Philanthropy, the Fuchs Foundation, Investec, the Norval Foundation, the Rupert Art Foundation and Strauss & Co.

“At the start of the lockdown in South Africa, our rector and vice-chancellor, Professor Wim de Villiers, made it clear that the university has two overriding priorities: to ensure that students can successfully complete their academic year and to maintain the sustainability of our institution.

“This initiative, run by the Development and Alumni Relations Division (DAR), in collaboration with our partners in the private sector, is therefore in direct response to his statement,” says Pieter Swart, director: Major Gifts and Transformational Giving at DAR.

Maties who are set to benefit from this initiative will be selected from the “missing middle” category of students.

“We are introducing innovative ways to ensure that none of our students is left behind in the wake of Covid-19.

“With the economic effects of this pandemic, we expect that even more of our students will move into the “missing middle” category – unable to access state funding and yet incapable of affording the costs of university studies because of the impact of Covid-19 on their household income,” he adds.

According to Mr Swart, Masked Masterpieces will not only help students in need, but will also showcase and promote South African masterpieces, while educating the public on the fascinating artists who have created these works.

Sites where the public will be able to view the masked works include the gabled wall of the Distell building on the R44, the wall next to the GUS gallery in Dorp Street, the Dorp alley in Bird Street, the Stellenbosch taxi rank in Bird Street, and the gabled wall on the corner of Drostdy and Plein streets.

“The Masked Masterpieces demonstrates in practice the innovative mindset that underpins a truly novel initiative that simultaneously manages to educate, to promote the arts and to raise funding for deserving students who are challenged by the impact of Covid-19,” explains Dr Riaan Els, who is the chief executive officer of the Fuchs Foundation.