Colloquium encourages students to use art to tell their stories
13 October 2022 – Puleng Maphisa
Professor Bayeté Ross Smith, an interdisciplinary artist, and photographer
In line with one of the important outcomes of higher education, which is research, the Department of Visual Arts and Design at the Vaal University of Technology recently hosted a postgraduate colloquium to stress the importance of research within the institution. The colloquium also provided a networking opportunity between the postgraduate students and staff and inspire undergraduate students to pursue their studies.
During the colloquium, different aspiring researchers presented their various studies to their peers and staff. According to Dr Anneke de Klerk, senior lecturer within the department and event organiser, this is important because it helps develop students the students into researchers that are able to voice their ideas and engage with any criticisms or alternative ideas.
The day’s special guest speaker was Professor Bayeté Ross Smith from Harlem, New York in the United States of America. He is an interdisciplinary artist, photographer, filmmaker, and education worker working at the intersection of photography, film & video, visual journalism, 3D objects and new media. He is also Columbia Law School’s inaugural Artist-In-Residence, a Presidential Leadership Scholar, a TED Resident, a Creative Capital Awardee, an Art for Justice Fund Fellow, a BPMPlus Grantee and a POV NY Times embedded media maker.
Taking to the podium, Prof Smith emphasised the importance of using art to tell a story that impacts and questions how we think and interact. His work uses photography techniques to question stereotypes and examine how perceptions based on race, background, and gender affect daily interactions. He said his family background inspired his work, and he started producing a successful photo project called Our kind of people. It projects how clothing, perception of ethnicity, gender, race, and class signifiers affect other people’s perceptions. The subjects used in his study are pictures of the person dressed in a different daily lifestyle fashion sense with the same lighting and the same facial expression. The idea was to show how individuals in the picture project their narrative background and classified on how people are being judged through their fashion sense in society.
Another guest speaker was Ms Marlette Compion-Venter, a system thinker and problem solver who discussed how to successfully fundraise for a more interesting you. Her presentation was based on knowing who you are, what you want to be and what you can do.
She said it is more important to know a lot about yourself than anyone, especially in research. Mentioning that it is vital to make google your friend and embrace the institution you are studying at for research.
“Google what you are and own your study; do not let anyone take away your study. Know what you will get and the benefits of your study, and you will succeed in your research. Find somebody who believes in you even when you do not believe in yourself to finish your research and learn to say NO. It is better to challenge your supervisors than to say yes to everything they say.” Ms Compion-Venter was motivating postgraduate students.
Ms Compion-Venter also reminded students that quitting should not be an option, no matter how challenging research may be. She said her first masters took six years, and she kept pushing because of the following words, ‘Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.’