CSU Meets Africa: The Exhibit opens to the public

Madison Wittman

Over a dozen CSU students traveled to South Africa this summer to immerse themselves in the artistic culture of the QwaQwa region. CSU Meets Africa: The Exhibit will display images from their trip, the region’s art, videos documenting project progression and other unique pieces. 

Dr. David Riep, Assistant Professor in art history, developed the trip based off of field work he completed in South Africa while working towards his pHD. At the end of his work, the South Sesotho people were curious what was next.

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“A lot of times [programs abroad] lack that reciprocity. I wanted to give have to the community that helped me with my research,” Riep said.  

Graduate students from the LEAP Institute for the Arts, and undergraduate students from the art and art history department were lead by Riep; Dr. Constance DeVereaux, Associate Professor in arts leadership and administration and Dr. Patrick Fahey, Associate Professor in arts education.

“[This project] was a great collaboration between three professors, the LEAP Institute for the Arts, and the Arts department,” DeVereaux said.

CSU student Jenna Lewis and Dr. Patrick Fahey work with other CSU students to bring art activities to school children in South Africa.
CSU student Jenna Lewis and Dr. Patrick Fahey work with other CSU students to bring art activities to school children in South Africa. (Photo courtesy: CLA Central) 

CSU student Jenna Lewis and Dr. Patrick Fahey work with other CSU students to bring art activities to school children in South Africa.

“There were really three parts to our trip,” DeVeraux said. “Understanding the rich cultural traditions of South Sesotho culture through art, teaching basic art practices to school children, and working with the Batlokoa Royal Council to help them envision new possibilities for their museum.”

To first gain insight into the traditions of QwaQwa’s South Sesotho nation, students studied the artistic techniques and cultural significance of the local artist’s work. They accumulated knowledge and unique pieces from each experience; including that from a traditional weaver who made customary ceremonial clothing, and a potter who used animal dung as fuel for firing pots.

“While there are a lot of differences in the world, there are also many universal themes,” Fahey said. “And that is what you see in their artwork.” 

Students also had the opportunity to introduce local school children to simple art techniques. “We went to rural public schools and held workshops on things like pottery making and watercoloring,” Riep said. “Students need this broader, more universal experiences,” Fahey said. “[In South Africa] they were able to see what it’s like to attend school someplace other than Colorado.”

While abroad, faculty and students also worked to help the Batlokoa Royal Council cultivate ideas for their “museum on a mountain top,” Riep said. The team assisted the council in “articulating their ideas” and creating a survey to obtain local opinions.

Current students in the LEAP500, Leadership in the Arts course, have put together the CSU Meets Africa exhibit as a reflection of this study abroad program. “They are taking what we did over the summer and making an exhibit that shares our rich experience,” DeVeraux said. 

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Pieces from the region’s local artists, as well as “Drawings made by art students and other framed pictures from the students,” said DeVeraux, and videos documenting the museum’s idea development will be included in the upcoming opening of the exhibit. 

“I hope to shed a light on the unique arts and culture of the South Sesotho people and their contributions to art,” Riep said. “And how CSU strives to make these cross cultural exchanges.” 

Collegian Reporter Madison Wittman can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @madiwitt.