DOCUMENTS

UCT must immediately unban artworks - Belinda Bozzoli

DA MP says leaked list vividly brings to life the sinister actions of the university

UCT must immediately unban artworks

The DA will today write to University of Cape Town Vice-Chancellor, Dr Max Price, and Chairperson of Council of the University of Cape Town (UCT), Dr Sipho Pityana, to request that the University immediately unban the 75 or so artworks that have been removed from public display or covered up in the past year (see below).

We also expect Price and Pityana to clarify the exact details of which artworks are on the “banning” list, and to name the 23 works of art that were destroyed through burning in February 2016.

The Groundup publication has provided a provisional list of the banned artworks, and if this list is correct it vividly brings to life the sinister actions of the University. Some of South Africa’s most significant artists are included in the list, including Breyten Breytenbach, Christo Coetzee, Steven Cohen, Mia Couvaras, Pieter Hugo, Vusi Khumalo, Lucky Sibiya, Pippa Skotnes, Irma Stern and Sue Williamson.

Breytenbach yesterday spoke out against his works being banned in a scathing open letter.

Banning an artwork is just as bad as taking a book from a library and burning it. Such actions prevent students from critically engaging with arts and literature.

It is difficult to comprehend that one of our leading Universities, known for its commitment to openness and free speech, and dedicated to the support and curation of the creations of many of South Africa’s best artists, should have indulged this kind of censorship, akin to the censorship and banning of literature, film, theatre and art by the apartheid government.

It is entirely unsurprising that the great photographer David Goldblatt has decided that his priceless collection will no longer be housed by UCT. A shutdown of academic debate and artistic discourse is clearly afoot at UCT.

The DA urges the University to reverse the decisions of the Orwellian “Artworks Task Team” and to restore these works to their rightful place in the University’s buildings.

Text of letter to UCT Vice-Chancellor Max Price, 28 April 2017:

28 April 2017 Vice-­‐Chancellor

University of Cape Town

Dear Dr Price,

Banning and burning of critical artworks at UCT

I am writing this letter to you today in order to address a deeply concerning issue -­‐ the restriction being exercised on freedom of speech, so much a part of what UCT ostensibly stands for, materialised in the banning of approximately 75 artworks, which have been removed from public display or covered up in the past year. Tragically we also saw the burning of some 23 artworks in the unrest of 2015-­‐16.

The recent Groundup publication provided a provisional list of the banned

artworks, which if correct, vividly brings to life the sinister actions of the University. Some of South Africa’s most significant artists are included in the list, including Breyten Breytenbach, Christo Coetzee, Steven Cohen, Mia Couvaras, Pieter Hugo, Vusi Khumalo, Lucky Sibiya, Pippa Skotnes, Irma Stern and Sue Williamson.

But we are told that the University has said this list is not accurate. We urge you to make public the precise details involved. The public – and presumably the artists too -­‐ needs to know exactly which artworks have been “banned” by the University, and also which ones were burnt in the riots of 2015-­‐ 16.

It is extremely difficult to comprehend how one of our country’s leading universities, known for its commitment to openness and free speech and obviously dedicated to the support and curation of the creations of many of South Africa's best artists, could have indulged in this kind of censorship. This current incursion on freedom of speech is akin to the censorship and banning of literature, film, theatre and art by the apartheid government.

I urge you to provide the public with full information on this matter; and to reverse the decisions of the Orwellian "Artworks Task Team" and restore these artworks to their rightful place in the University's buildings.

Yours sincerely

(Not signed as sent electronically)

Prof Belinda Bozzoli (MP)

DA Shadow Minister for Higher Education

ENDS

Statement issued by Belinda Bozzoli MP, DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education and Training, 28 April 2017