The Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria (Javett-UP)
Above: the Javett-UP exterior.
In recent years, we’ve seen a global increase in the interest in art from Africa. Both conversations and research have focused on contemporary practice, repatriation and restitution, the future of the creative industries in Africa and the role that they have to play in the continent’s economy.
With one foot firmly rooted in academia, and the other imbedded in the public, the Javett-UP makes Africa’s art accessible, relevant, and engaging. The building is erected on the south campus of the University of Pretoria and connects the university with the city of Tshwane via a bridge over Lynnwood Road. Under the building, the student gallery links to the architecture and visual arts departments, and a number of other exhibition spaces that will house various temporary exhibitions.
Aside from temporary exhibitions, the Javett-UP houses two permanent collections. These are the Javett Foundation’s collection of 20th-century South African art, which contains a number of significant works, and the Mapungubwe Gold, an archeological collection that is historically and culturally important for South Africa, the southern African region and the world.
Gabi Ngcobo, curator of Javett Family Collection, says:
Each work of art from the Javett Family Collection is like a history book – opening up possibilities for understanding the past, for reading the present and dreaming towards the future…(it) features voices from different generations and, as a team, we have critically engaged with the works in order to create a space that makes evident the de-colonial processes that will need to be engaged with, in order to shift the way we engage with (our) history.
The Javett-UP is a collaborative, multidisciplinary space. As part of the University of Pretoria’s research, teaching and learning resources, the centre engages with the public by educating communities about the art of Africa, encouraging interaction and engagement. The centre aims to be an institution that encourages engagement with the ideas, methodologies and concerns of African art. In this way, the space becomes a platform for learning – conversations about creativity and innovation, contributing to the discourse on Africa’s art, and reflecting upon historical and political events as interpreted by artists.
“This is a place where people can learn about how Africa’s artists express the myriad, complex narratives of the continent and contribute to conversations about the continent’s past, present, and future.” – Christopher Till, founding director of the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria.
Art, says Till, is not a practice or pursuit reserved for a tiny portion of people who are schooled in fine art, art appreciation, or the reverence for priceless masterpieces that hang in hallowed galleries.
“Art is for everybody. It tells the story of where we come from and why we find ourselves right here, right now. The Javett-UP is, and will always be, a home for the art of Africa. In the best tradition of warm and welcoming African hospitality, the doors are wide open so all people can come and learn more about this continent, its triumphs, tragedies, and its deeply layered, but fascinating, complexity as expressed through African artists, both ancient and modern.”
Learn more: javettupp.art