VUT FINE ARTS PART OF PHYSICAL AND AN ONLINE PANEL DISCUSSION FOCUSING ON SOUTH AFRICA’S DOCUMENTED AND UNDOCUMENTED HISTORY
By: Qhawekazi Memani – 03 April 2023
The Vaal University of Technology (VUT) Fine Arts Lecturer and Independent Curator, Ms Nkululeko Khumalo in partnership with the Len Khumalo Foundation and the North West University (NWU) recently hosted a phyisical and online panel discussion themed: “The Damage Still Remains”.
The event was attended by VUT, NWU and Wits students, as well as staff and patrons of fine arts discipline.
Through Len Khumalo’s historic images, the exhibition and the panel discussion focused on South Africa’s documented and undocumented history. It also questioned and examined some of the events documented in Len Khumalo’s lifetime body of work as a photojournalist and photographer who worked mostly from the early 1970s through the 2000s.
As a black man in society, Bra Len, as he is affectionately called, was able to redefine photography venues and establish his position as an essential precursor in the field. He has given us access to a vast collection that captures and preserves moments in the South African history.
In her remarks, Ms Khumalo reiterated that, “As we explore his photographic and oral archives, we start to map and reconstruct our country’s past via Khumalo’s eyes and memory.
She added that by examining his photographs, we can see how many of the events—especially the unfavorable ones—remain relevant in modern, “Post-Apartheid” South Africa. “The pictures serve as a reminder that we are still coping with the aftershocks of our history while we traverse our nation via rainbow-tinted glasses. The harm is still present, in fact.”
In the session the panelists discussed a range of topics, including how black people develop the ability to share their tales, particularly through firsthand knowledge and oral tradition. Other topics around preservation and archiving, were also covered during the informative exchanges.
In the end, the panelists deliberated that indeed the “The Damage Still Remains” and also reflected on the twenty-nine years into liberation yet we are still living with the damages caused. They echoed a sentiment that when one looks at the body of archives, they’d also realise that the issues that were there during the apartheid are still the same issues currently, adding that some, we are just worse off than what we were previously. Especially referencing from the Newspaper Archives and the photographs, the panelists said there were killings then that we claim had meaning and now we have killings that are unexplained.
After listening to the panelists, Isabella Moganedi, a VUT second year Fine Arts students said was interested in learning how to become more fearless despite having grown up in a protected environment and how her family’s history protected her from political and Black history. She added: “I aspire to the same fearlessness that earlier photographers and artists have.”
Another attendee Bandile Nyembe also a VUT third year student believes that the panel discussion made it clear to him how interconnected we all are. “All forms of art have a connection and are tied to one another,” he said, adding that he also realised the importance of networking in these creative environments and the fact that the more involved one is in the arts, the more linked one becomes.