Artwork outside of Stellies Law Faculty brings SA’s Constitution to life
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Cape Town - An artwork depicting the preamble of the Constitution of South Africa is being erected in front of Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Law Faculty building, the Old Main Building.
SU spokesperson Martin Viljoen said the installation, portraying the preamble in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa, is due for completion by the end of September.
Viljoen said laser-cutting technology was used to excise the words of the preamble on the plates.
“The Faculty of Law initiated this project in 2017 as part of SU’s visual redress process that aims to add art and symbols to the university’s campuses giving effect to the institution’s vision of an inclusive institution committed to a transformative student experience, among others.”
Nicola Smit, Dean of the Faculty of Law, said the Constitution of South Africa 1996 was the foundation for a democratic and open society and the principle of transformative constitutionalism was a central one in contemporary legal education.
“The preamble to the Constitution comprises a commitment to a socially just society that is united in our diversity and the portrayal of the preamble at the entrance to our faculty was therefore considered both appropriate and inspirational,” Smit said.
She said the project itself came into being after a comprehensive consultation process was followed involving the SU visual redress committee, faculty staff and students and the SU management, as well as external role-players. The renowned landscape artist, Strijdom van der Merwe, said he was extremely proud of being selected to work on the design of the project as he had fond memories of the building.
Van der Merwe, who attended classes in the building as a student in the 1980s, said due to the Ou Hoofgebou often being used as a visual symbol of the university, he was particularly careful to create a sculpture that would not distract from the front view of the building.
“We started with a particular idea, but the design went through a number of changes as we received input from various role-players to get to where we are now,” he said.
Van der Merwe said that another dynamic feature of the artwork was that the text from each plate was projected on to the ground as the sun shone through the plates at certain angles and at certain times of the day.
“In this way, a dynamic experience is created between the text and the passer-by to ‘experience’ the preamble, as it were.”
Dr Leslie van Rooi, a senior director of transformation and social impact, said they believed that art installations such as this one would contribute to transforming their spaces to be welcoming, inclusive and increasingly diverse as envisaged in the University’s Vision 2040 and Strategic Framework 2019-2024.
Van Rooi said it created opportunities to encourage reflection and conversations about lessons from the past and the possibilities of their future as enshrined in the Constitution.