Readers may know that the University of Cape Town has been removing art from the campus that is seen as upsetting some students. Some works were burnt, others defaced and now the UCT leadership have capitulated to this censorship and removed them.

What is so astonishing about the decision is that some of the works – like Willie Bester’s Saartjie Baartman sculpture – was a piece of art designed to protest against racism and sexual exploitation.

Here is a letter of protest from the writer and artist Breyten Breytenbach, and a list of the removed art.


Dear Editor

Source: GroundUp

What a prime example of the inherently South African expression of fascism! It is neither new nor original though: the late National Party already visited the same obscenities on us. Advancing under the banner of “righting injustices”, “promoting Africanism”, expectorating Western (sic) artefacts… we witness the condonation of classical fascist behaviour through the ages: doing away with anything that might challenge the closed and fearful mindsets of the mob.The world has seen this before in the book-burning orgies of the brave SA during the Nazi period (remember ‘Entartige Kunst’?), in the courageous barbarism of China’s Red Guards, in the ways the Pol Pot régime ‘cleansed’ Kampuchea, all the way through to the revolutionary ardour of Boko Haram. Welcome to the vomiting power of being human!

But why stop at such a piddling demonstration of effecting social and aesthetical justice?

I hereby declare my willingness to publicly put to the torch the three paintings that I had produced during the years of political blindness when I did not know what I was doing. I shall be naked, as behooves a penitent. I’m willing to grovel and kiss the smartphones of the revolutionaries. (I can’t promise to flagelate myself, being somewhat of a coward.) The only favour I ask is that such a ceremony should take place in the presence of Dr. Max Price and his cohort of professors and other flunkeys.

Yours in abject contrition


Source: GroundUp

This is probably the list of artworks UCT has removed

University claims there are errors in our list that we obtained from a reliable source, but refuses to provide corrections

Photos of Saartjie Baartman sculpture, before and after
Left: Willie Bester’s Saartjie Baartman sculpture on UCT. Right: Same sculpture after it was covered up. (Left photo by Flickr user Alan Cordle – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; Right photo by GroundUp – CC BY-ND 4.0)
25 April 2017

Following a long deliberation process, the Artworks Task Team (ATT) of the University of Cape Town (UCT) published a report in February that indicates the pieces of art removed and covered up in the past year will remain off the walls indefinitely.

The report appears to refer to a list of 75 pieces of works that were removed, the names of which GroundUp has received from a confidential source (list included at the bottom of this article) as well as 19 pieces of art determined to be controversial by student representatives on the ATT in 2015. The two lists, which most probably overlap with regards to certain pieces of art, in combination with the 23 works that were destroyed during the Shackville protests in February 2016, leave a gaping hole in UCT’s sizable collection of artwork as almost 100 pieces will be collecting dust in a storage closet for the foreseeable future.

In response to GroundUp’s request for confirmation of the below list of 75 removed works, UCT said that, “the list of the 75 artworks provided by GroundUp is not entirely correct.” However, the university has refused to reveal the titles of the works that are incorrect.

The ATT was started in September 2015 to advise the university’s Works of Art Committee on policy for statues, plaques, and artworks.

In response to criticism of the Task Team in the media, the ATT responded with a “clarification” of its role, distinguishing itself from the Works of Art Committee whom it said is “the body responsible for the development of policy for artworks.”

In the February 2017 report, the ATT published a list of “short- and medium- to long-term recommendations [that] were developed based on the outcomes of the audit of artworks, statues and plaques.” The first short term recommendation, to be implemented in one year, states:

“The University of Cape Town must keep artworks that were removed from the walls in storage pending a broader consultative process. This consultation may take the form of displays of some of the contested artworks, (in dedicated spaces such as the CAS Gallery), debates and discussions around specific artworks and/or themes. Seminars that may involve artists of ‘contested’ works may also be hosted by the WOAC and other departments in the university around different artworks and symbols.”

It is not clear if this “consultative process” has a time limit for how long the art will be kept in storage.

The report makes it apparent that some of the works were removed for safety reasons while others were removed for political reasons as “part of the transformation agenda” and calls on the Works of Art Committee to make clear the reason for removal.

“The Task Team [ATT] organised a joint meeting with the Works of Art Committee where it supported this initiative but advised that the motives for the removals should be made clear. For example, there needed to be public communication about whether the removals were only a measure for securing assets or if they were part of the transformation agenda. The lack of public communication by the Works of Art Committee incited widespread public speculation that removals amounted to censorship by the [ATT].”

One of the conclusions reached by the team discusses that although “there may not be a problem with individual artworks,” the overall effect of many works creates an unsafe, uncomfortable environment for certain people on campus.

“In our deliberations we found that while there may not be a problem with individual artworks, their cumulative effect, coupled with the lack of a considered curatorial policy, creates a negative feeling amongst some students and staff. We found that currently, UCT does not have a curatorial policy and would need to develop one that is transformation sensitive.”

Artists of the removed and covered works, including Diane Victor, Edward Tsumele, and Breyten Breytenbach, have publicly spoken out against UCT’s supposed transformation process, which the aforementioned artists regard as censorship.

Breyten Breytenbach’s Hovering Dog has been removed from UCT’s library.

In an interview with LitNet in April 2016, Tsumele said: “It is 100% a case of censorship, ironically in a democracy whose constitution allows for freedom of expression such as through art.”

When asked if South African art that is influenced from overseas trends can be viewed as a form of colonialism or neo- colonialism, Tsumele said, “Society should not attempt to dictate who should influence artists.” Further, “There should never be dictatorship with regard to how artists represent the human condition in their works; whether we agree or do not agree with such representation, it is none of our business as society.”

The report confirms the list of 19 works that were singled out by students on the team, though it does not name the pieces. In response to a query from GroundUp regarding the works, Elijah Moholola, Head Media Liason for UCT said, “[the works] were identified as part of the plan of the ATT to initiate discussions and debates around the contested artworks but such plans were affected by the protest action in February 2016.”

The ATT report states:

“The initial student representatives on the Task Team identified a list of 19 works in 2015 that were deemed to be controversial. Before recommendations could be made, however, the #FeesMustFall protests began, resulting in the closure of the University.”

It goes on to discuss the paintings that were destroyed during protests, without naming them:

“On 16 February 2016, twenty-three artworks were destroyed on Upper Campus during the Shackville Protests.”

A 2014 article criticising the over- representation of black bodies in negative and often degrading positions in artwork displayed across campus refers to a number of paintings and sculptures, including Willie Bester’s Saartjie Baartman and Diane Victor’s Pasiphae. Many of these were removed or covered up. These two artists are not on the list of 75 that GroundUp received, leading us to believe that the list of 75 is mostly separate from the 19 works. However, the reference to the “portrait of a naked white man, on his lap is a black woman” identifies Breytenbach’s Hovering Dog, which is, in fact, on the list of 75 artworks we received. This indicates that though UCT has said the 19 works identified were not removed because of protest disruption, works identified as part of the list of 19 may also be part of the 75 works that were indeed removed.

Willie Bester by enzo dal verme. Copied for fair use.

UCT has declined GroundUp’s request for the identification of the 75 pieces removed, for the identification of the 2015 list of 19 works discerned as “controversial,” and for the identification of the 23 pieces of art destroyed during the Shackville Protests.

In response to GroundUp’s question of whether or not the removal of these pieces of art goes against UCT’s ideals of freedom of expression, the university responded: “UCT continues to uphold freedom of expression as enshrined in the South African Constitution. The removal of the artworks is only a temporary measure while there is ongoing dialogue and debates over creating an institution that is inclusive and reflective of the diversity of the country.”

Table of artworks removed If you find errors in the list below,
please alert GroundUp via
Artist Title
1 Justin Anschutz Split path
2 Richard Keresemose Baholo Mandela receives honorary doctorate from UCT
3 Richard Keresemose Baholo Stop the Killings
4 Esmeralda Brettany Serialisation
5 Breyten Breytenbach FG
6 Breyten Breytenbach Hovering Dog
7 Breyten Breytenbach SA Angel black/white
8 Robert Broadley Flowers in a Vase
9 Robert Broadley Portrait of an Old Man
10 Robert Broadley Portrait of the artist, Nerine Desmond
11 Robert Broadley Roses in a Jug
12 Robert Broadley Roses in a Vase
13 Robert Broadley Tree in Blossom
14 David Brown Travelling icon; an artist’s workshop
15 Herbert Coetzee Portrait of Sir Richard Luyt
16 Christo Coetzee Untitled (Ping pong balls)
17 Steven Cohen Five Heads
18 Philip Tennyson Cole Portrait of an unknown associate
19 Mia Couvaras Untitled
20 R Daniels Perversion
21 R Daniels Pumpkin Aand
22 R Daniels The Dreamer
23 P de Katow Portrait of Prof James Cameron
24 Lyndall Gente World in a Grain of Sand
25 Constance Greaves Portrait of an African Smoking a Pipe
26 Charles M Horsfall Portrait of Mrs Evelyn Jagger
27 Pieter Hugo Dayaba Usman with monkey, Abuja, Nigeria
28 Vusi Khumalo Township scene
29 Isabella Kneymeyer A Quick Streamer Sketch, Fish River Canyon
30 Isabella Kneymeyer Streamer Cross Hatch, Study Luderitz, Namibia
31 Twinki Laubscher Reclining angel with cat
32 Twinki Laubscher Seated angel
33 Neville Lewis Portrait of JC Smuts
34 James MacDonald Triptych 1 (The Apostles)
35 Antonio Mancini La Prighiera
36 Edward Mills Portrait of Alfred Beit
37 W G Parker Portrait of Sir John Buchanan
38 Henry Pegram Alfred Beit
39 Michael Pettit Siegfried’s journey down the Rhine
40 Joshua Reynolds (After) Duchess of Devonshire
41 Joshua Reynolds (After) Lady Compton
42 George Crossland Robinson Portrait of Prof Renicus D Nanta
43 David Rossouw Sunningdale
44 David Rossouw Welgevonden
45 Edward Roworth Portrait of Dr Thomas Benjamin Davie
46 Edward Roworth Portrait of Prof Theo le Roux
47 Edward Roworth Portrait of Prof William Ritchie
48 Rupert Shephard Portrait of JP Duminy
49 Lucky Sibiya Village Life
50 Pippa Skotnes The wind in //Kabbo’s sails
51 Christopher Slack Twenty four hour service
52 W T Smith Portrait of Henry Murray
53 Irma Stern Ballerinas at Practice
54 Irma Stern Portrait of a Ballerina
55 Irma Stern Portrait of an African Man Blowing a Horn
56 Mikhael Subotsky Untitled
57 Mikhael Subotsky Voter X
58 Hareward Hayes Tresidder Bowl of Flowers
59 Andrew Tshabangu Bible and candle, Zola, Soweto
60 Andrew Tshabangu Trance, Tzaneen
61 Karina Turok Portrait of Mandela
62 Unknown, Continental School Figure of a Standing Woman and a Study of an Arm
63 Unknown Seated Woman and a Study of a Head in Profile and a Hand
64 Hubert von Herkommer Sir Julius Charles Werhner
65 Robert Heard Whale (Rev) J Russel
66 John Wheatley Maidens at Play near Rock
67 John Wheatley Portrait of Carl Frederick Kolbe
68 John Wheatley Portrait of Dr E Barnard Fuller
69 John Wheatley Portrait of JW Jagger
70 John Wheatley Portrait of WF Fish
71 Sue Williamson Aminia Cachalia
72 Sue Williamson Cheryl Carolus
73 Sue Williamson Helen Joseph
74 Sue Williamson Mamphela Ramphele
75 Michael Wyeth Blue Wall