by Gerrit Bester and Tebogo Tabane
The Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) conferred honorary doctorate degrees on four foremost South Africans as part of its Spring graduation ceremonies. At graduation ceremonies hosted on the Pretoria Campus on Monday, October 24, artist, Esther Mahlangu; performing artist, Yvonne Chaka Chaka; fashion designer, David Tlale; and businessman, Michael Nkuna, were honoured for their achievements serving as an example of the University's aspirations.
Mahlangu was awarded the degree of Doctor of Arts and Design (Honoris Causa) in the Faculty of Arts and Design in recognition of capturing the imagination of the world with her unique Ndebele art, and for her tireless efforts to ensure that this art form, with its rich history, is preserved for future generations.
At a luncheon to celebrate the honorary doctors, a modest Mahlangu thanked the University in Ndebele and said: “I’m happy today that I’m also wearing red attire, and I’m honoured. I’m truly grateful for what you have done for me. I have caught up with you who have walked this path before me.”
Tlale was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Arts and Design (Honoris Causa) in the Faculty of Arts and Design for putting South Africa at the forefront of fashion, and for serving as an inspiration to young creatives studying in this cut-throat industry.
A visibly touched Tlale dedicated the degree to his late mother Joyce, who he said always made sure that he, his sisters, and brother looked presentable despite the little she had.
“Never underestimate small beginnings. Humble beginnings have a tendency of leading to greatness,” he said in his acceptance speech.
Nkuna's pioneering township and rural commercial and retail development earned him the Degree of Doctor of Management Sciences in Organisational Leadership, conferred in the Faculty of Management Sciences.
In his acceptance speech, Nkuna said he is humbled to receive an honorary degree from a University that promotes excellence.
“Our country lacks great mentors like myself, and it is my wish that all graduates today, will go out there and make a meaningful contribution to society and also become great mentors themselves.”
“As you enter the world of work, you need to demonstrate that you are products of TUT, a University that promotes academic excellence and produces future-ready graduates,” he told graduates.
The University conferred the Degree of Doctor of Performing Arts (Honoris Causa) in the Faculty of Arts and Design on Chaka Chaka in recognition of her contribution to the South African entertainment industry for several decades, and for using her celebrity status in aid of humanity. Chaka Chaka received the degree in absentia.
Mahlangu, also referred to as the matriarch of contemporary Ndebele art, is known for her bold, large-scale, colourful, and geometric paintings, for which she is internationally recognised. She first gained international attention in 1989 at a French art exposition, titled Magiciens de la terre (Magicians of the World).
In 1991, she was commissioned by BMW to create an art car, as other BMW art car creators, had done before (including Andy Warhol, David Hockney, and Frank Stella). The car was the first "African art car” and was painted with the typical Ndebele motifs.
Aged 86, Mahlangu remains committed to her craft and continues to appeal to governments and communities across the continent to preserve their traditions and culture in the face of globalization.
Chaka Chaka, also known as "The Princess of Africa," has led South African popular music for the past 35 years and is well-known throughout Africa and the rest of the world. Her success was guaranteed by songs like I’m Burning Up, Thank You Mr DJ, I Cry for Freedom, Motherland, and the enduringly popular Umqombothi.
In addition to her musical prowess, she is also a humanitarian at heart, serving as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, among others. She is also an advocate for social justice, education, and economic empowerment for girls.
Tlale, hailed King David for his fashion expertise, is considered one of the country’s top fashion designers. His fashion label, which defies the clichéd and expected, debuted in 2003 and has since garnered praise and attention on a global scale. The House of David Tlale, since its inception as a one-man design house, now employs 52 full-time employees. Its vision is to be part of design houses that resuscitate the clothing and textile industries in South Africa.
Being a firm believer in ploughing back, Tlale established The Intern by David Tlale in 2012. This initiative has played an instrumental role in giving young South African designers a platform to showcase their skills, talents, and craftsmanship, and has helped them to launch their own brands.
Nkuna, affectionately known as "Mike," is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Masingita Group of Companies, which was started in 1983. He was the first to identify and dominate a niche market in the commercial and retail property sector in townships and rural areas.
Nkuna has successfully developed several retail centres in the rural and township areas of South Africa.
Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, hailed Mahlangu, Chaka Chaka, Tlale, and Nkuna as SA giants.
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Dr Esther Mahlangu flanked by Dr Michael Mushaathoni, Registrar; and Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, Vice-Chancellor and Principal.
Dr David Tlale delivering his acceptance speech at a graduation ceremony where he was awarded an honorary doctorate.
Dr Michael Mushaathoni, Registrar; Dr Esther Mahlangu; Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, Vice-Chancellor and Principal; Dr David Tlale; and Dr Michael Nkuna.
Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, in conversation with Dr Esther Mahlangu.