North-West University: “Attached to the Soil” ― NWU experiences Fulbright scholar’s touching exhibition

by Willie du Plessis
An exhibition capturing the hopes and dreams of South Africans living in a democratic country since 1994 is currently touring six of South Africa’s university campuses. Members of the management, staff and students of the North-West University (NWU) attended a walkabout at the NWU’s Potchefstroom Campus where they could experience Fulbright scholar Prof Peter Glendinning’s “Attached to the Soil” exhibition.

Prof Glendinning, a professor in Art, Art History and Design from the Michigan State University, conducted the walkabout at the NWU Art Gallery for deans, deputy deans and school directors from the various NWU faculties.

The walkabout, which took place on 12 August, was arranged by the NWU’s research niche area Visual Narratives and Creative Outputs (ViNCO). The exhibition features 50 photographic portraits that were created at the six universities where it will be displayed.

As part of the exhibition Prof Glendinning conducted more walkabouts for students and members of the public and presented photography workshops to students and emerging artists.

More about “Attached to the Soil”

“Attached to the Soil” was created in 2019 during the 25th anniversary year of former President Nelson Mandela’s inauguration*. It is a collaboration with 48 young people and each work is based on new soil-related metaphors formed by youth from the “born free generation”. Those metaphors reflect their aspirations, but now in the context of a 25-year-old nation, says Prof Glendinning.

Dr Annemi Conradie-Chetty, director of ViNCO, says Prof Glendinning visited the NWU in 2019 and collaborated with students and members of ViNCO to create their own photographic projects comprising a portrait and the sitter’s recorded narrative.

Prof Glendinning says he was impressed with the enthusiasm of everyone at the NWU for the exhibition. “It is a great pleasure to be here at the NWU. I am also here to propose to young people that they continue with the project and create their own new combinations of oral history interviews with subjects who have stories from their lives that relate to their aspirations.”

The exhibition opened on 11 August and will conclude on 16 September. For more information, please contact NWU Art Gallery curator Ms Amohelang Mojahane at (018) 299 4341 or email
*The “attached to the soil” metaphor was presented by former president Nelson Mandela during his first address to South Africans upon his inauguration in 1994.
He spoke of the significance of each individual citizen in their unity with each other. He used the metaphor relating to the soil by saying: “To my compatriots, I have no hesitation in saying that each one of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country, as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld. Each time one of us touches the soil of this land, we feel a sense of personal renewal.”

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