by Gerrit Bester
Alumni of the Faculty of Arts and Design, including prominent figures in the South African entertainment industry, returned to their alma mater on Friday, 3 June for the launch of an alumni chapter aimed at re-engaging this important University constituency. Speakers at the event stressed that the initiative is long-overdue and voiced invaluable proposals on how future engagements with them can be a win-win for all.
The initiative, spearheaded by the Alumni Relations Office of the Advancement and Partnerships Office (APO), was the first of such events to establish alumni chapters at all the University’s seven faculties. In brief, such chapters aim to support the network of graduates who, in turn, help to raise the profile of the University, bring together like-minded individuals to advance its objectives, and promote the personal development of students and graduates, respectively.
Among the alumni present were actors Tony Kgoroge, Mmathabo Mothibe, Mbulelo Katisi, and performing artists, Gloria Bosman and Pastor Given Mabena. Many others followed the event online.
“The future is bright at this Faculty” Kgoroge, who was the guest speaker, is popularly known for his multiple theatre and film roles, including the e-TV soapie, Imbewu the Seed, and 7de Laan on SABC 2. He has portrayed the role of freedom stalwart, Walter Sisulu, in the movie Long Walk to Freedom, and is also best known for his performance as Jason Tshabalala in Invictus, amongst others.
The arts activist said: “The future is bright at this Faculty and we have to keep it that way.” He added that TUT Arts alumni are still sought-after in the industry and often take up the front seats.
“It is heart-warming to see the Africanisation and decolonisation of the creative industries. It is something that we have been pushing for, even when we were still students, to enhance the African voice, no matter in what colour it comes. We were crying for that voice. Local relevance is important,” he emphasised.
“Still sitting awkward with us is the segregation in the Arts. It is up to institutions such as TUT to close this gap so that students can operate in collaboration when they leave the institution. Unfortunately, TV stations are still for certain races, certain types of stories and people. Can we become closer to who we are than what is being shown to us?” he asked.
“I’m happy that the launch is happening now. I used to wonder when are they calling us?”
“The industry is shifting and, therefore, I hope this launch will bring together industry and students.”
He highlighted several key issues that artists are still struggling with and can lead to them being exploited. “We become brilliant but we lack certain skills, such as entrepreneurship, and financial and contractual literacy. Therefore, I’m happy to note that the Faculty is putting more effort into equipping students to be able to live great lives through their respective crafts.”
“Artistic integrity is everything” Bosman, who studied Vocal Art and is one of South Africa’s most celebrated performing artists, said in a message of support that the initiative is way overdue and that she looks forward to “something big.”
She said that she is still baffled by the fact that art is not taught at a grassroots level, compared to other disciplines. “We are not creating a people with a higher appreciation of the Arts because they are not exposed to it as they are supposed to be.”
“We need to get to a place where artistic integrity is everything and that that integrity is seen in the way the curriculum is set out.”
She also pointed out that the lockdown exposed the truth about how the Arts are looked at.
“I’m here to support one thing: If we are to create a people that are to be respected by communities it should start right here.”
“We are done toyi-toying and are now part of the boardroom. We are for this. The fact that you dared to call us implies that you want to listen to us. What we are protecting is far bigger than TUT – it is the whole arts.”
“It’s not all about raising funds, it’s also about raising friends” Dr Eric Pule, Director of the APO who took office earlier this year, gave an interesting presentation on the University’s alumni profile. He said there are 229 113 TUT alumni on the alumni database, mostly Gauteng-based, and that this number increases every year after both the Autumn and Spring graduation seasons. A total of 9 373 alumni on the database hail from the Faculty of Arts and Design.
He explained the strategic goals of the APO concerning alumni as building a stronger, networked and coordinated alumni engagement; segmenting and formalising alumni chapters and associations; overcoming the current “limited tangible” access to the (older) alumni; and promoting a culture of giving among alumni.
Dr Pule also stressed that to take the University to the next level, it needs to build future-ready graduates, conduct impactful research and innovation, and become digitally advanced. “We cannot do it alone. Now is the right time to identify and engage alumni. It’s not all about raising funds, it’s also about raising friends,” he said.
“Art matters, whether you work in the Arts or not” Prof Nalini Moodley-Diar, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Design, said Arts alumni operate in a completely different space – one that illuminates the significant impact the Arts have on and through the creative industries.
“While we expect most alumni to be employees, in the Arts we find that most of them are self-employed and working two or three jobs in their field of study. Thus, alumni are a glimpse into the world of possibility for students – a world where their arts training has helped them in various fields of life. It has allowed them to understand how to collaborate, how to communicate and how to problem-solve. But, most importantly, I think, Arts alumni, through their training, are deeply empathetic people, which for me is one of the most critical characteristics a citizen must have, particularly in a world where there is less and less humanity. Thus, for you as Arts alumni, we know that art matters, whether you work in the Arts or not.”
In concluding the proceedings, an interim Faculty of Arts and Design Alumni Chapter committee was established. The response to serve on the committee was overwhelming. Its guidelines and responsibilities still need to be fine-tuned.
If you’ve missed the Facebook live stream of the event, please click on the following links:
Actor Tony Kgoroge was the guest speaker at the launch of the Faculty of Arts and Design Alumni Chapter.
Gloria Bosman, who studied Vocal Art at TUT and is one of South Africa’s most celebrated performing artists, gave a message of support at the event.
Prof Nalini Moodley-Diar, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Design, flanked by Tony Kgoroge and Pastor Given Mabena.
Dr Eric Pule, Director of the Advancement and Partnerships Office.
Performing Arts students, Nosisa Dlamini and Simbone Qonya, entertained guests. They were accompanied on the piano by Dr Rostislava Pashkevitch, Head of the Department of Performing Arts.
A group of Performing Arts students welcomed guests with song and dance.
PHOTOS: Boitumelo Choene, Lunga Ndaba and Kgomotso Modiga