Great exhibitions to check out this winter at Johannesburg’s two public universities

By Edward Tsumele

Universities besides being spaces where people accumulate knowledge formally  that is not only needed for gainful employment and the development of the country, its economy as well as the human condition, can also play important roles in enriching informally communities around them. This is especially so for public universities that get funded by tax payers  to cover some of the shortage from their research activities, student fees and other activities.

And this is why for example universities, especially public universities are expected to have programmes and initiatives benefitting especially communities around them.

It is in this context for example such universities have museums, theatres and galleries that are accessible to the public. Luckily in Gauteng, almost all public universities have such facilities and activities accessible to the public. And this is certainly true for such universities as Wits, University of Johannesburg and University of Pretoria, for example.

The University of Johannesburg has the UJ Art Gallery, Wits, Wits Art Museum (WAM), and the University of Pretoria Javett Art Centre, and these spaces besides being spaces to meet the needs of academic programmes and students needs studying art, these are spaces that are accessible to the public. And often they also host exciting and thought provoking exhibitions dealing with contemporary issues of the day.

And those who are around Johannesburg, or will be visiting Johannesburg this June will do well to consider checking Wits Art Museum and UJ Art Gallery at the  University of Johannesburg where there are two exhibitions to check out this winter.. In this feature CITYLIFE/ARTS would like to guide you about what is on at these two institutions.


Let us start off at UJ Art Gallery. This winter the UJ Art Gallery connects to the soil with Pauline Gutter’s new exhibition titled PRIMORDIAL that will be hosted from 9 June to 21 July 2021.  Having lived on Free State farms for the better part of her life, Gutter has a deep connection with the soil.  This innate relationship between the human psyche and the earth is beautifully reflected in the themes of PRIMORDIAL

You can join the opening on 9 June 2021 at 18:00  virtually on the UJ Art Gallery’s innovative online platform MOVING CUBE and will feature a virtual walkabout with Pauline Gutter and Ashraf Jamal streamed from 18h00.  Growing in popularity the MOVING CUBE space offers audiences from around the country, and the world, a chance to discover and connect with new artists and their work.  

Gutter is known for her monumental works addressing issues of power and land through the analogy of the unstable situation in the agricultural sector. She now focuses on universal themes of negligence, decay, and conflict: the duality of frugal survival versus the excessive waste brought on by exploitation of natural resources, but with the underlying hope of regeneration.

Filthy Rich / Dirt Poor 

Now from UJ Art Gallery let us move nearby to Wits Art Museum where doctoral candidate Jacki McInnes’ exhibition Filthy Rich / Dirt Poor has been extended until June 30, so don’t miss the chance to see it before it closes.

Her striking exhibition interrogates the deeply inequitable status of contemporary South Africa and Johannesburg’s informal recyclers play a leading role. Their back-breaking work is undoubtedly for the betterment of society and yet they are subjected to extreme levels of stigmatisation and marginalisation. With this in mind, McInnes’ research centres on ‘value judgements’: in the first instance as these pertain to trash but, more especially, as they extend to the city’s recyclers themselves.
The recyclers are evoked by means of painterly depictions of a damaged mining landscape. Using mine dump dirt and shredded South African bank notes, stark outlines speak to the lives of the mine labourers who came before and to the recyclers who continue to work this landscape for meagre wage. The paintings are built up in layers to echo the wan colours of Johannesburg’s southern periphery – once the source of such great underground wealth but now just the repository of surface waste.
The exhibition forms part of the artist’s submission towards a Creative PhD in the Wits School of Arts.
WAM is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 – 16:00. In accordance with Covid regulations there are restrictions on the number of people allowed into the museum at any one time. 
Booking is essential, please call 011 717 71358 or 011 717 1365, or email

Please fill out a Covid screening form before entering the museum by texting the code *120*3622#. You will need to obtain and present this clearance before admittance.

And so do not get bored in Johannesburg this winter, but remember to take Covid-19 precautions, especially If you are intending to viti these exhibitions physically as the  Third wave is evry much lingering in the air as health officials continue to warn us. Please enjoy these exhibitions.

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