As with other South African universities, such as the University of the Wiwatersrand (Wits), Fort Hare University and the University of South Africa (Unisa), UWC is the owner of a number of art collections. These include the Art against Apartheid Collection, the Albie Sachs Collection of Mozambican Art, the Community Arts Project Collection, and also the UWC Art Collection.
The UWC Art Collection comprises paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, mixed media works, a large tapestry, and also prints, which constitute the largest proportion of the collection by far (66.7 %). The collection includes works by some of South Africa’s most renowned artists, such as Cecil Skotnes, Pippas Skotnes, Ezrom Legae, William Kentridge, Tito Zungu, Judith Mason, Andrew Verster, Willie Bester, Tyrone Appollis, Walter Battiss, Penny Siopis, Karel Nel, Lucky Sibiya and Sue Williamson. Some of the works, however, are by relatively unknown artists.
The content of the collection ranges from representations of historical and contemporary figures, such as Shaka and Archbishop Tutu, to landscapes, nude studies, portraits of former UWC rectors, and township scenes. The collection also includes portrayals of anti-apartheid figures, such as Albertina Sisulu and Helen Joseph, depictions of the forced removals in District Six, still-lifes, interior scenes, representations of musicians and examples of resistance art.
Another salient feature of the collection is that it includes a number of print portfolios, such as Maurice Van Essche’s Nude Studies series (1952) (seven works) and Andrew Verster’s Homage to Seferis (1987) (ten works). The collection also features hand-made books by artists – Pippa Skotnes’ Adventures in a Southern Wonderland (1986), for example.
According to records, particularly old accession cards, the earliest works in the UWC Art Collection were acquired in 1982, while Prof Richard Van der Ross was the rector (1975-1986). UWC continued to acquire works for this collection under the rectorship of Prof Jakes Gerwel (1987-1994), as records show that works were purchased in the early 1990s. It seems that not many works entered the collection while Prof Cecil Abrahams was the rector (1995-2001), probably because of the university’s financial difficulties during this time. However, more recently, during Prof Brian O’Connel’s term as rector (2001 – 2014), the collection expanded, growing to a total of about 400 works.
In the early years of building the UWC Art Collection, many works were purchased from galleries, such as the SA Association of Arts (Cape Town), Gallery International (Cape Town), Oasis Gallery (Cape Town), Die Kunskamer (Cape Town), Goodman Gallery (Johannesburg), Gowlett Gallery (Cape Town) and the Dorpstraat Gallery (Stellenbosch). In some cases, works were also purchased directly from the artist, or from individuals.
Not all the works in the collection were purchased, however, as some, particularly those acquired in the 1980s, were donated by artists. Artists who have donated works include Peter Clarke (3), Cecil Skotnes (1), Nils Burwits (1), Caroline van der Merwe (1), Maud Sumner (1) and Amy Schoeman (portfolio of 10 works). Esther Rousso of Gallery International also donated a portfolio of 7 works by Maurice van Essche in the late 1980s.
Most of the works in the collection are kept at the UWC-RIM Mayibuye Archives storeroom at the Centre for Performing Arts (58%). A large proportion, however, is displayed in various buildings on campus (42%), such as the Administration Building and the Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) Building. All of the works on paper (graphics, drawings, photographs and mixed media works) and paintings in the various buildings have been framed by the various departments at their own expense.
The artworks in the collection are managed by Hamilton Budaza, the archivist at the UWC-RIM Mayibuye Archives, who processes requests for the loan of works by the various departments. A point person, usually the departmental secretary, is responsible for the works in each of the various buildings.