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Faculty stalwart boasts a new title

by Gerrit Bester

Herman Botes, one of the Faculty of Arts and Design’s stalwart employees and a passionate design educator, obtained a PhD in Visual Arts at an autumn graduation ceremony of the University of Stellenbosch in March. In an interview, he describes this journey as rewarding but at the same time an exercise in perseverance.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR CAREER SO FAR. Currently, I’m the Head of the Department of Visual Communication, Faculty of Arts and Design, and have been part of the Faculty’s management team since 2003, when I was first appointed as a Section Head. In 2018, I was elected President of the Southern African Design Educators Forum (DEFSA) and now serve as a DEFSA Senate member. In 2022, I completed the Teaching Advancement at Universities (TAU) Fellowship. I’m frequently involved as a programme evaluator for the Council on Higher Education (CHE) in the accreditation of design-based programmes in South Africa.

WHAT IS THE TITLE OF YOUR PhD DISSERTATION? Exploring critical citizenship and decolonisation as a framework for design education in South Africa

WHO WAS YOUR SUPERVISOR? Prof Elmarie Costandius.

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT ON THIS JOURNEY TO SELECT THE RIGHT SUPERVISOR AND HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM/HER? I believe your relationship with your supervisor is, without a doubt, the greatest determinant of success in a meaningful postgraduate journey. Fortunately, I had the same supervisor for my Master's and Doctoral studies, which allowed me to further explore topics of mutual interest. I have tremendous respect for my supervisor, who is a leading authority in the field. It gives one great comfort to know you are in the hands of an internationally recognised expert.

SHORTLY EXPLAIN THE MAJOR FINDINGS/DISCOVERIES MADE AS PART OF YOUR STUDY AND HOW THEY CONTRIBUTE TO THE CURRENT BODY OF KNOWLEDGE IN THIS FIELD. This study explores how critical citizenship and decolonisation perspectives can contribute to a design pedagogy for citizen designer education. Considering the negative impact of increasing social and economic inequality on social justice, the study argues that South Africa requires conscientised citizen designers who can think and act beyond current expectations. The research contributes to the field of design education by identifying a wide variety of relevant and significant themes in critical citizenship and decolonisation perspectives that could be considered for implementation by design educators in their specific discipline when working towards developing a South African citizen designer.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR FELLOW STAFF MEMBERS WHO ARE BUSY WITH THEIR DOCTORAL STUDIES OR ARE CONTEMPLATING SUCH STUDIES? Postgraduate studies are an exercise in perseverance; keep your focus and do not embark on this journey if you are not very passionate about the topic you are researching.

WHAT ARE YOUR RESEARCH INTERESTS, AND HOW IMPORTANT IS RESEARCH OUTPUT IN THE ARTS? I’m focused on the advancement of design education in South Africa. Research output in the field of design education is growing exponentially in South Africa, and I’m excited to see how the body of knowledge has grown since I became a design educator more than 25 years ago.

HOW WILL YOU ENCOURAGE A CURRENT STUDENT TO PURSUE POSTGRADUATE STUDIES? Generally, students in the field of design do not require postgraduate qualifications if they wish to flourish in the industry. Therefore, students who proceed to postgraduate studies are highly likely to pursue a career as an academic. For me, the decision to become an academic is a calling that comes from the heart and is fuelled by passion. If you do not hear the calling from your heart, do not pursue postgraduate studies.

WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS ACADEMICALLY AT THIS STAGE OF YOUR CAREER? For now, my ambition is to focus on building my profile as an author and editor. I’m excited about the prospect of collaborating with colleagues at TUT, as well as South African and international academics.

Dr Herman Botes, Head of the Department of Visual Communication at the Faculty of Arts and Design, photographed after obtaining his Doctorate from the University of Stellenbosch.


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