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12/06/2020

From music to digital storybooks and virtual cartoons, Nelson Mandela University’s arts, culture and heritage department has been spearheading a number of projects aimed at promoting positivity while providing entertainment and education during a time when personal interaction is not allowed.

From music to digital storybooks and virtual cartoons, Nelson Mandela University’s arts, culture and heritage department has been spearheading a number of projects aimed at promoting positivity while providing entertainment and education during a time when personal interaction is not allowed.

Using various platforms including Zoom, Microsoft Teams and even WhatsApp, the award-winning NMU choir have continued to create music and released a number of songs in celebration of various occasions including Africa Day with their latest project for Youth Day.

Arts, culture and heritage head Ryan Pillay said the offerings from the choir were both emotional and cathartic and had been used to tell people “it’s going to be OK”.

“Since they cannot get together to practise, everything has to be digital.

“Up to now they have released three new songs in the digital way.

“We have to look at reinventing ourselves digitally,” Pillay said.

According to Pillay, during the lockdown it had become even more important to change the methodology of arts by going digital first.

“We are using all areas of arts [and] looking to curate these in a digital platform.

“This has also opened up opportunities for work,” Pillay said.

Through their various initiatives, Pillay believes the arts are a cornerstone in education but also entertainment.

“We are also developing 10 storybooks for foundation phase learners ... which is an integrated platform for other schools within the university,” Pillay said.

The department was also busy designing a cartoon-style comic with a different weekly topic in response to the Covid19 pandemic.

This includes the MaskUpMandela campaign teaching people to wash their hands correctly, wear masks and practise social distance.

All their initiatives are available on the NMU website as well as all social media platforms, Pillay said.

Acting dean of humanities Professor Mary Duker said art was visual thinking, music had emotive power and poetry and words carried with it reflections of understanding.

“Art is an expression of humanity. Art can be a call to action, as well as a source of joy and spiritual upliftment.

“For many of our creative arts students, spending time at home under lockdown, art making serves as a form of healing, of therapy, as well as a form of escapism from what are often difficult and traumatic circumstances.

“Whether it is in the form of protest art, murals, graffiti, poems or song, or whether it is in the creation of a lovingly crafted artwork, a sculpture, a painting, a drawing, or a photograph, art provides a means of self-expression.

“Audiences for art are moved, informed, uplifted and challenged by its content,” Duker said.

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 12 June 2020 written by 
Devon Koen koend@theherald.co.za

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