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Exploring ‘The Blind Alphabet’ with MTN Foundation’s Niel Nortje

South Africa’s corporate and arts sectors have a long history of successful and mutually beneficial partnerships. Whether it’s corporate sponsorship, the managing and showcasing of art collections, or towards social and cultural investment, the relationships between artistic and corporate entities and organisations can have myriad benefits. One such partnership is that of the MTN Foundation and the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery. In light of UJ Art Gallery’s Moving Cube launch, which sees the gallery once again partnering with the MTN Foundation, Creative Feel spoke with Manager of the MTN Art Collection, Niel Nortje to discuss the art of sponsorships, exhibitions in the virtual realm, and the work of artist Willem Boshoff. 

Niel Nortje
Willem Boshoff – Baculiform

Creative Feel: The MTN Foundation has a long history of supporting the arts. How did the partnership with UJ come about and why is such a partnership worthwhile for MTN?
Niel Nortje: The MTN Foundation’s relationship with the UJ Art Gallery goes back to 2008 when the MTN New Contemporaries was managed and hosted there. Then in 2014, the MTN Foundation again collaborated with the UJ Art Gallery to host the second run, of the first version, of the seminal Jackson Hlungwani exhibition. On the premise of these highly successful collaborations the MTN Foundation decided to engage with the UJ Art Gallery in executing on its strategic objective with the MTN Art Collection by entering into the Art Collection Partnership programme since 2017. The anticipated outcomes of the partnership aim to increase exposure and provenance development for both institutions art collections; to provide mentorship and training opportunities in the curatorial field and to explore innovative ways and ICT solutions in contributing towards art education and skills development among our youth. The MTN Foundation’s corporate social investment objectives therefore align with that of the UJ Art Gallery’s imperatives for social and educational development.

CF: Tell us a bit about the choice to exhibit Willem Boshoff’s Blind Alphabet and the significance of showcasing such a body of work.
NN: Willem Boshoff’s Letter B of the Blind Alphabet, has been a part of the MTN Art Collection since 1998. Babery to Bigeminate are the first 40 pieces of this incredible body of work and has, since its acquisition, been widely travelled, displayed and utilised to facilitate the MTN Foundation’s corporate social investment programmes for raising awareness around disability and the importance of communication in crossing social divides.

Continue reading our Q&A with Niel Nortje

Navigate through our Moving Cube articles:

Willem Boshoff exhibition – The Blind Alphabet

Moving Cube – a newly developed UJ Art Gallery website

Mentorship, education and the Emerging Artist Development Programme – how to enter

Exploring The Blind Alphabet with MTN Foundation’s Niel Nortje

Curating context online: Annali Cabano-Dempsey discusses UJ’s Moving Cube

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