Digital Initiative – Moving Cube

The enduring relationship between MTN SA Foundation and UJ Art Gallery has brought public exhibition programmes with works from their respective art collections to the South African arts landscape since 2008.

The offering for 2020 brings a fresh approach to Willem Boshoff’s, the Blind Alphabet – Letter B: Babery to Bigeminate (from the MTN Art Collection) and widens the scope by including a digital experience promoted as part of MTN and UJ’s venture into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) age.

The advent of the COVID-19 virus with its short, medium and long-term implications necessitated a new approach to this project: a large-scale gala event, extended audience attendance and an educational programme could no longer be considered a safe or viable option during the present conditions.

However, this state of affairs presented the unique opportunity for an online intervention which allows not only for a leap into the digital domain, but also ensures the longevity of the project in the virtual space on UJ Art Gallery’s newly developed platform, Moving Cube.

This strategy fortuitously coincided with a new approach to Boshoff’s Blind Alphabet project. After noting comments by visually impaired individuals on the outdated nature of the Braille type format, the forty works of the Letter B within the Blind Alphabet, are now augmented by music, written by contemporary composer, Jaco Meyer, as well as voice-overs and QR codes. This enables the visually impaired access to the works through cellular technology – listening to the music and rationale behind each artwork through earphones. The visually abled are now also able to appreciate this body of work in its new format in a unique way.

In addition, considering the importance of the artist and his work, this online venture offers extensive documentation on the artist and his oeuvre to academics, teachers and learners as well as the art loving public.

The two curators, Niel Nortje (MTN) and Annali Cabano-Dempsey (UJ) facilitated three programmes aimed at developing participation in the conversations on Boshoff’s Blind Alphabet.

  • Mentorship Programme provided first-hand experience of curatorial practice with master classes on collection management, practical in-house label making and marketing. Ndaya Kim Ilunga, Angelique Bougaard and Mpho Mazibuko participated enthusiastically in the development of the Educational Programme as well as assistance with content development for the digital platform.
  • An Emerging Artists Development Programme invited artists to submit artworks in response to or in conversation with the Blind Alphabet. A panel of judges selected the top ten entries as well as the overall winner.
  • An Educational Programme in the form of a competition invited participants to engage with Willem Boshoff’s work with successful entries having the opportunity to win prizes

This project in its online form and the exhibition, to be hosted by the UJ Art Gallery in real space and time during 2021, was made possible by a generous sponsorship by the MTN SA Foundation and a supporting grant by Business and Arts South Africa .