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HoD stands tall at annual Humanities and Social Sciences Book, Creative Collection, Digital Contribu

by Gerrit Bester


Pfunzo Sidogi, Head of the Department of Fine and Studio Arts, Faculty of Arts and Design, was recently recognised as one of those members of the broader Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) community who are undertaking work of creating post-apartheid and post-colonial forms of scholarship, creative production, and digital humanities outputs.


This recognition came in the form of being announced the winner of the Best Non-Fiction: Monograph 2023 category at the 8th Annual Humanities and Social Sciences Book, Creative Collection, Digital Contributions Awards 2023, presented by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS). These awards honour outstanding, innovative, and socially responsive scholarship, creative as well as digital contributions that enhance and advance fields in the humanities and social sciences.


The title of the book for which Sidogi received this accolade is Mihloti Ya Ntsako: Journeys with the Bongi Dhlomo Collection, published by the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria where the awards ceremony took place on 16 March.


Although Dhlomo is well-known and has widespread visibility within the local and international art circles, this book represents the first major art historical examination of her life and career.


Mihloti Ya Ntsako: Journeys with the Bongi Dhlomo Collection chronicles the coming into being of the Bongi Dhlomo Collection, a unique compendium of 138 artworks produced in the previous century by both well-known and unheralded black South African artists. Overseen by Bongi Dhlomo, one of the most accomplished artists, curators and arts administrators of her generation, this remarkable collection was formed to provide aesthetic glimpses into the personal and collective experiences of black South Africans during the tumultuous twentieth century, and to facilitate a meaningful dialogue between contemporary audiences and the country’s recent history.


“The book situates the artworks in the Bongi Dhlomo Collection within the broader socio-political, economic, and cultural currents of the twentieth century. My essay also explores the nature of the collaboration between the Javett Foundation, financiers, and legal custodians of the collection, and Bongi Dhlomo, the de facto patron and collector of the artworks,” said Sidogi.


The book is a milestone on several fronts. It is important because it tells the story of the Bongi Dhlomo Collection, a collection put together by a black woman, Bongi Dhlomo, and housed at the Javett Art Centre, University of Pretoria. The Bongi Dhlomo Collection is unique because it is one of the unicorn examples of a museum-grade institutional art collection named after a black woman.


Furthermore, it explores the meaning of this collection and how it relates to the growing tide of black patronage of black art, especially by women collectors and curators. It is part biographical because it also unwraps the amazing life and artistic journeys of Bongi Dhlomo, the artist, curator, and arts administrator extraordinaire who has been part of the visual arts industry since the late 1970s when she enrolled as a student at the famed Rorke’s Drift art school in the KwaZulu Natal province.


Asked what the recognition means to him, Sidogi said: “For an art book to receive the top prize in the non-fiction category proves that narratives and research in art and design disciplines are also important. I hope the accolade inspires emerging scholars to get their research published as books because their unique voices and research material matter.



Pfunzo Sidogi, Head of the Department of Fine and Studio Arts, won the award for the Best Non-Fiction: Monograph 2023 at the 8th Annual Humanities and Social Sciences Book, Creative Collection, Digital Contributions Awards 2023.


PHOTO: Javett Art Centre (University of Pretoria)

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