The prosperous partnership between the MTN Foundation and the William Humphreys Art Gallery (WHAG) goes back to 2004 and has initiated many successful programmes including exhibitions, a Mobile Children’s Library programme and a Schools Outreach Programme. 2018 will see the MTN/WHAG Schools Outreach increase its reach to include a further four more schools.
In February 2004, the MTN Foundation took its first, national travelling, fully sponsored exhibition, Rorke’s Drift – Empowering Prints, 1962 – 1982, curated by Philippa Hobbs and Elizabeth Rankin, to the William Humphreys Art Gallery (WHAG) in Kimberley. The exhibition was accompanied by an educational supplement and walkabout programme for surrounding schools and would set the precedent for future MTN/WHAG collaborations and the start of a nearly 14-year partnership.
In 2005, the MTN Foundation returned to the WHAG with another travelling exhibition to celebrate ten years of South African democracy, Resistance, Reconciliation, Reconstruction. The year 2008 saw the seminal Messages and Meaning exhibition of exclusively MTN Art Collection pieces open at the WHAG. Later that same year, the WHAG’s enthusiastic team of education specialists and project leaders assisted in the management and hosting of the last MTN Schools Art Awards.
In 2012, the Praying Land – Heritage and Humanity in the Northern Cape exhibition incorporated, for the first time, artworks from the permanent collections of the WHAG and MTN and was also accompanied by an educational programme. Then in 2014, after nearly five years, the MTN Foundation returned to the WHAG with the Amazwi-Abesifazane: Voices of Women Museum’s Conversations We Do Not Have exhibition and outreach programme. This was the first time an MTN/WHAG collaboration was not focused on learner and teacher development, rather seeing to the social benefit of approximately 20 women from the disadvantaged !Xun and Khwe San communities in Platfontein on the outskirts of Kimberley.
Because the Northern Cape Province is vast – making up approximately 30% of South Africa’s total land area, with a very low population density of 2% – poverty and deprivation in almost all facets of everyday life is a glaring reality for its disadvantaged rural and urban communities. This is particularly pronounced in terms of arts and cultural opportunities for primary and high school learners from these communities, where it has become pivotal to reintroduce art into these schools as it plays a significant role in the stimulation and development of children at an early age.
In order to contribute towards these learners’ experience of art, museums, cultural activities and art education, the WHAG in Kimberley has been running a programme of outreach exhibitions since 2002, which has, to date, made an impact in the lives of approximately 5 666 learners and 277 teachers from 48 schools in 33 towns in the Northern Cape. The enormous demand for this programme has secured its success despite the fact that service delivery in isolated Northern Cape towns is expensive and logistically difficult to achieve, and has been putting strain on the WHAG’s already limited operational budget.
The MTN Foundation’s Art Collection Partnership Programme has, since 2015, searched for strategic partnerships with institutional museums and galleries where the MTN Art Collection is utilised for what it was always mandated to achieve: increasing its value as a company asset by being recognised as an instrument for educational development and support of the visual arts in South Africa. Therefore, by recognising the impact of the WHAG’s educational outreach programme, the MTN Foundation was pleased to once again join forces with this trusted partner of over 14 years to further support and fund this initiative.
In July of 2016, the MTN/WHAG Schools Outreach Programme kicked off at Perde Eiland Primary School, between the towns of Augrabies and Kakamas. A small art exhibition of approximately 20 original South African graphics and prints from the permanent collections of both MTN and the WHAG, was on display, accompanied by the WHAG’s devoted team of art education specialists.
The exhibition was curated around a theme from the national arts and culture curriculum and the WHAG team mainly worked with the Grade 6 and 7 learners. Worksheets were devised for learners and teachers to actively participate in the studying of original artworks. This theme was extended when the learners were introduced to the artmaking process by making their own abstract paintings. The arts and culture teachers were also provided with curricular assistance and equipped with art book packs, to empower them for the benefit of their learners. The learners themselves were presented with school backpacks, art materials and stationery.
WHAG was able to initiate a Mobile Children’s Library programme with the support of various stakeholders, namely: African Narratives, Nal’ibali and yet again funding from the MTN Foundation. This programme concentrates on Grade 4 and 5 learners, which promotes a love for reading among younger learners through reading sessions and the donation of a book for each learner to take home.
Since the MTN Foundation’s funding of the MTN/WHAG Schools Outreach Programme, a further 818 learners and 40 teachers from eight schools have benefited from this educational intervention. The partnership will continue with four more schools having been allocated for 2018.
Dawn Langdown, one of the teachers who participated in the WHAG Outreach Programme, said: ‘The arts are an important part of life. If we worked only with our brains we would be half alive. There is also a body and a soul. Of course, the body is important. But it is the soul that is most important. The soul is the seat of the imagination, of creativity, and that is what makes us human.’