12 artists commissioned to transform Henley Africa’s public spaces

Henley Business School Africa has commissioned 12 up-and-coming artists to transform the school’s campus into a space that is more reflective of African culture and Henley’s identity as the top business school in Africa.

Henley Business school Africa (Henley Africa) has commissioned 12 up-and-coming artists to transform the school’s campus into a space that is more reflective of African culture and Henley’s identity as the top business school in Africa.

Henley Africa has partnered with social enterprise The Coloured Cube, through which 12 artists have been selected from 80 applicants to work on the project.

Titled Resurgence, the project will see each artist painting two of 26 pillars that surround the Johannesburg campus courtyard. Artist and creative entrepreneur Mariapaola McGurk, owner of The Coloured Cube, says the idea is for the artists to infuse their own African culture, perceptions and identity into the Henley campus, essentially transforming it into a place inspired by Africa and its people.

The project is aligned with Henley Africa’s stated mission: “We build the people, who build the businesses, who build Africa.

The artists, many of whom have arts qualifications, hail from Gauteng, the Free State, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga.

McGurk sees Resurgence as being about rebirth and revival. “It’s about acknowledging past, culture and identity and exploring how these can transform as we look to the future.”

Central to the project, says McGurk, is allowing the creative process to take its course without trying to influence the outcome. “Through our hosting of exploratory workshops, the artists have come up with their own creative ideas, based on their own life experiences and culture. Henley, which is all about creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, has embraced this forward-thinking approach.”

The artists have attended a workshop at The Coloured Cube, where they have shared ideas about their and Henley Africa’s place in South Africa and Africa, and will also be attending a workshop on systems thinking at Henley before the painting process begins.

Jonathan Foster-Pedley, Dean and Director of Henley Africa, says the painting of the courtyard will bring the pulse, the rhythms, diversity and culture of Africa to the campus, and further enhance Henley Africa’s identity as the top African business school. “We are transforming our campus to reflect our status as Africa’s leading triple-accredited international business school and glad to be supporting South African artists in the process. We believe the artworks adorning our campus will inspire Henley’s students to express their own creativity and find innovative ways to build Africa into a confident, trans-national economic powerhouse.”

Foster-Pedley recognises the importance of the creative industries for job creation and to grow the economy. “It is the young people in the creative industries that are going to grow the businesses of the future and we are very focused on supporting them through our scholarships, bursaries and education programmes.”

For McGurk, key to any project The Coloured Cube undertakes is that the artists working on the project get paid and get exposure for their work while also giving something back. Thus, while Henley Africa is paying for the painting project and the workshops, McGurk also applied for and received a grant from BASA (Business and Arts South Africa) Supporting Grant Scheme, funded by the Department of Arts and Culture.  The grant will see the 12 artists sharing their skills and knowledge with primary and high school children from the Jeppestown area. “The idea is that education must not be owned, but rather shared and this project enables the sharing of knowledge and creativity.”

Foster-Pedley adds that the grant funding has been a perfect addition to the project as the sharing of education and the transferring of skills and knowledge are essential to the growth and development of South Africa.

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