Even as students at UCT are burning artworks in protest of UCTs failure to feed, clothe, house and educate them free of charge, UCT’s Irma Stern Museum is hosting a programme at the gallery named in honour of Irma Stern who died fifty years ago in 1966. They will be focusing on icons. Brother Richard Maidwell will demonstrate the making of an icon, as well as having various lectures on icons, and how to recognise Byzantine style icons. Please direct any enquiries to 021 650 2888.
I raise the subject mainly because I have in the past been privileged to sit through a series of four short lectures on Christian Orthodox iconography by Iconographer Bridget Hayes and I found it particularly fascinating, both from an artistic point of view, but more particularly from a religious reflection stance.
As I sit here I am horrified that students will burn paintings. However, I am also horrified that it is necessary for them to resort to burning paintings in order to get heard. Ironically, the sentiments do go hand in hand with Christian iconography. Many of the saints portrayed in icons were martyrs cruelly treated at the hands of draconian authorities.
While I stand by the “white privilege” stance that students have no business vandalising artworks and indulging in property damage and that this, unchecked, will lead to a multitude of undesirable outcomes, I also have a sneaking empathy for students who want to learn and have no money to do so. Even studying through UNISA is impossible for students on limited budgets where every cent gets turned twice as one considers whether it will be spent on basic food, necessary transport or essential clothing items and education fees. I know this. I am STILL (white privilege and a job notwithstanding) in a position where UNISA fees are a luxury given that I would be studying for non-degree-purposes.
It is my sincere prayer at this time that this country finds a workable solution to this huge and worrying problem. I wish I could attend a “make an icon” meditation day. That would please me at the moment.