The Javett-UP Art Centre’s response to SWEAT open letter

The Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria (Javett-UP) is primarily an educational institution. Javett-UP aims to be a home for the art of Africa, which means several things; we want to exhibit art from all over the continent (and the Diaspora), we want to educate people about the arts, and we do so through a rigorous and accessible school and public programme, we want to be a platform for sometimes difficult conversations about the arts (in a decidedly non-academic tone) and we want to examine our history, our present and the possibilities for our futures as Africans.

These include themes relating to racism, sexism, culture, land and poverty and gender-based violence (GBV). These are themes that are all thoroughly unpacked and discussed in our educational and public programmes. As an educational and cultural institution, we stand behind our guest curator, Gabi Ngcobo (and her research team) and her rationale for including Zwelethu Mthethwa’s work in one of our inaugural shows, ‘All in a Day’s Eye: The Politics of Innocence in the Javett Family Collection’.

Javett-UP believes that it is necessary and urgent to speak candidly about issues of gender-based violence and femicide, particularly in the wake of movements like #MeToo and #AmINext / #IAmNotNext. The Javett-UP believes that to remove Mthethwa’s work is to ignore the conversations relating to gender-based violence and essentially silence those who have fallen victim to, and survived it. Violence and misogyny thrive in secrecy and Javett-UP is committed to providing a platform for having difficult but necessary dialogues and casting a light on issues of GBV misogyny and femicide.

In line with Javett-UP’s culture of collaboration, engagement, discussion and education, we would like to invite a representative of SWEAT to participate in a public discussion about the issues inherent in the exhibition of Mthethwa’s work in the context of the current climate of GBV and femicide in South Africa and the world.


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