The Art of Bull*** at UCT: A reply

University says it remains committed to creating space for all students and staff, not just a few

Response to an article on artworks at UCT

In response to an article by Elisa Galgut and William Daniels, “The Art of Bull*** at UCT” (1 November 2018), we set the record straight for what should be the last time.

The Works of Art Committee, those who are facilitating the review of works of art on campus, comprises of much-respected historians, academics, scholars, artists and students. The implication that the opinions of these individuals amounts to expletives which cannot be dignified with being repeated here has to be taken with a pinch of salt. These are the experts, regardless of which reality one chooses to see.

In their article, Galgut and Daniels claim that the “narrative constantly changes” when related to the reasons for the review. Yes, the narrative does change, but that is the nature of a review – when new information comes to light the debate evolves just as in research. 

A short review of the UCT situation is thus needed here. Following the 2016 protests, the immediate reaction of the executive was to move artworks on campus to safekeeping. Thereafter the executive realised that there was a need for spaces for engagement and discussion, hence the wider UCT community was asked to share their views on the matter. Finally based on these views it was understood that the issue was more complex than originally thought and thus the university has opened a dialogue regarding the place of artworks on campus.

A tangled web? We deeply disagree. Rather a rational evolution of ideas and thoughts. A university is where discourse evolves. And a “dialogue” by nature is a conversation thus if the conversation is ongoing it would be disingenuous to return artworks to campus.

UCT remains committed to creating space for all our students and staff, not just a few, while respecting the rights of all others, including the artists who have shared their artworks with us.

The university has constantly engaged with and tried to foster an understanding of the reality that is UCT in 2018. We thank Daniels and Gulgat for sharing their views with us as we continue to interrogate the place of artworks on campus.

UCT will continue to engage on this matter internally and externally because it is important to our commitment to academic debate, to transformation and to our student and staff community.

However, we cannot continue to engage with individuals who are not open to listen to views that differ from their own, or resort to expletives instead of, to borrow partially, ‘improving their argument’ and enhancing the debate. As such, we consider the correspondence closed with these individuals. However UCT will continue to constantly engage with and try and foster understanding of different viewpoints with those who are committed to open and respectful debate.

Elijah Moholola, UCT Communication and Marketing Department