NEW MACE FOR UKZN
The University of KwaZulu-Natal boasts a Mace created and designed by local sculptor, Mr Zamokwakhe Gumede.
The wooden Mace was recently presented to the University Council by Registrar, Professor Jane Meyerowitz, bringing to fruition a process which began in 2007 when the Academic Ceremonials Committee decided to commission a Mace for UKZN.
“The request was that the Mace would be uniquely ours, reflecting both the African context and global reach of the Institution as well as having a strong local character about it. A preference was voiced for the Mace to be carved in an indigenous wood, in keeping with the African woodcarving tradition,” said Professor Meyerowitz.
A working group, comprising members of staff in the University’s Centre for Visual Art, members of the Academic Ceremonials Committee and student representatives drawn from the School of Architecture and the Centre for Visual Art, was set up to take the process further.
The working group identified local sculptor Mr Gumede as an artist well suited to doing the work.
Mr Gumede has worked in several public galleries in KwaZulu-Natal and has received major public commissions for his sculpture designs. His sculptural style is bold and direct, utilising simplified or stylized forms with clear evidence of the process of carving through the rough-hewn chisel marks.
He was asked to consider ways of conveying the local context of the Institution in the work which continued the long established African and European traditions of a Mace signifying authority and protection.
Mr Gumede started work on the final piece early this year and completed the project in June.
The final design incorporates several features of the earlier prototype versions. The head of the Mace is made up chiefly of three opened book-like forms, suggestive of scholarship but also the massive landscape forms of KwaZulu-Natal, onto each of which is placed a small simplified implement specifically a ruler, a pen and a pencil.
These refer respectively to the scientific and computational, the text-based and the creative sides of the University’s work. Below this is the neck component, comprising an encircling set of six heads, (not actual portraits), representing the diverse University community.
This is all surmounted by an impressive alighting secretary bird, an elegant and active bird found throughout the province and indeed much of southern Africa. It has been carved in Mr Gumede’s distinctive way, which is not given to intricate detail but rather to clean, simplified planes of wood resulting in a strong and expressive shape with high visibility for the audience.
The shaft of the Mace has been left unadorned but has at its foot a hoof-like shape, giving a sense of contact with the soil.
The wood used is Drakensberg bottlebrush, greyia sutherlandii, in isiZulu umBande, gathered from the artist’s home near Bergville.
All vulnerable projections, such as the bird’s wings, have been underpinned with stainless steel rods. The length of the mace is 1.2 metres while it is 35cm across at its widest. It weighs 3.5kg, but this will reduce slightly over time as the residual water content diminishes.
“I would like to thank Professor Fikile Mazibuko, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities who led the project and Professor Terrence King of the Faculty of Humanities, Developement and Social Sciences who oversaw the details of its design and execution through the various stages,” said Professor Meyerowitz.