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Introduction

The Visual Art Department has had a 20-year history of Community Engagement (CE).

The first award for an innovative community-engaged project was received in 1996/7 from Metropolitan Life for the best inter-university community project, which facilitated the establishment of Tshwaraganang as the first papermaking project to generate an income for 12 women housed at a Sisters of Mercy ABET Centre in Winterveld. Following its success, the former Department of Arts Culture Science and Technology (DACST) awarded a R3m grant in 1999/2000 to Kim Berman's Research Activity at the former Wits Technikon to establish papermaking projects around the country. Phumani Paper received poverty alleviation funding over five years and set up 21 hand-papermaking projects across the country, in seven out of the nine provinces.

Phumani Paper was the Flagship project for CE at the former Wits Technikon, which extended its partnership with the Faculty of Humanities at UJ in 2009. In 2005, Phumani Paper received a grant to launch the first Archival Hand Paper Mill in South Africa, which was an outcome of many years of research. More recently, in November 2013, the Visual Art Department won the Community Engagement award for its partnership with Artist Proof Studio, which was initiated when Kim Berman joined UJ in 1994.

Community-engaged research that is interdisciplinary and collaborative, has led the way through research funding from the NRF since 1997. The Papermaking Research and Development Unit (PRDU) initiated interdisciplinary research in papermaking crafts and technologies. Collaborations included partners such as the CSIR, ARC, Department of Forestry, Working for Water, and UJ institutional partners including Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Sociology, Development Studies, and a range of Design Departments in FADA. 

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Mampho Ra Hlasane Masters Project: Photovoice, Mural Art and Mapping as mobilising tools for social change contributed to the success of the Cultural Action for Change project.

Summary of Community Engagement Projects of the Department of Visual Art Department at FADA

Phumani Paper

Phumani Paper (meaning “Reach Out” in isiZulu) was an independent Section 21 company associated with the University of Johannesburg since 1998, with a focus on supporting the income generating and poverty alleviation efforts of 15-20 community based papermaking business units in seven provinces. Founded by Kim Berman at part of a Research and Development activity of the Faculty of Art and Design, Phumani Paper was registered as an independent company since 2005 and positioned to create market opportunities for paper crafters around the country. Phumani Paper’s National Office was based at the University of Johannesburg’s Doornfontein Campus, but was closed down in December 2012, to make way for the Campus renovations for the Engineering Faculty.

The ten hand-papermaking operational units, that were still operational at the time of the closure of the National Office had received specifically targeted training to attain the high levels of skills needed to compete within the local and international craft sectors. The business units use different agricultural plant species and agri-waste that are specific to their local surroundings, making the kind of hand-made paper unique to each region. Some the projects such as Twanano Papermaking in Ivory Park, Tshwaraganang in Winterveld; Siyazama in Kayelitsha, Bosele in North West and others remain operational in spite of receiving no financial or marketing support since the closure of the National Phumani Paper at UJ.

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Ford Foundation: Participatory Action Research – Cultural Action for Social Change

A joint programme by the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Phumani Paper (PP) and Artist Proof Studio (APS), funded by the Ford Foundation. 

The Ford Foundation’s first award of funding to Phumani Paper and Artist Proof Studio in 1998, enabled the establishment of one of the largest active community engaged research programmes in the University of Johannesburg. The focus of the Ford Foundation funding to Phumani Paper, was to support the income generating and poverty alleviation efforts within 16 community based papermaking business units through the provision of administrative and institutional capacity.  In addition, the partnership with Artist Proof Studio (APS) facilitated the implementation of an AIDS Action programme in the various Phumani papermaking sites, which was called “Cultural Action for Social Change”. This programme incorporated various creative, artistic methods to implement workshops on HIV/AIDS, including Paper Prayers and Photo Voice, with the aim to assist the Phumani groups, who had suffered from significant membership losses from HIV/AIDS, to seek support, testing and treatment.

The use of artistic and creative methods led to various links with higher education institutions, both locally and abroad (including Wits, Michigan, Brandeis and Rutgers Universities). These collaborations specifically engaged research relevant to the income generation and AIDS Action programmes, as well as the development and promotion of Photo Voice and Paper Prayers as methods in Participatory Action Research (PAR). This linked to the doctoral research of the founder of Phumani Paper, who is also the Executive Director of APS, Kim Berman, to her research activity within FADA on the role of art in social change. 

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University of Michigan students collaborating with the FF team from UJ and APS to conduct interviews and workshops 2006

Women on Purpose: The Resilience and Creativity of the Founding Women of Phumani Paper

The Ford Foundation together with the UJ office of Commercialisation and the University of Michigan supported the publication of a book entitled, “Women on Purpose: the resilience and creativity of the founding women of Phumani Paper” co-ordinated and authored by Kim Berman with contributions by Susan Sellschopp, Jane Hassinger and photographs by Debbie Rasiel. The book was launched in July 2012 to honour 26 founding women and share their struggles, triumphs, and knowledge with a wide audience. Students and staff from UJ and UM collected narratives and stories to accom pany the women’s own photographs and artwork, and in 2008, Debbie Rasiel a New-York based photographer travelled around the country with the team to many of the sites photographing remarkable portraits of the women. The launch coincided with an exhibition of photographs by Debbie Rasiel and a showcase of the history of Phumani Paper.

Since Phumani’s inception, many of these 26 founding women remain dedicated to their work and to building their communities. Taking pride in being leaders in their communities with skills to share, the women no longer see themselves as victims of apartheid and poverty. Their stories are inspirational and provide important lessons about the relationship of creativity and resilience.

The book is available through Kim Berman: kimb@uj.ac.za

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Tlaki Radebe from Tswaraganang, Winterveld. 

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The Research team visiting Kutloano Papermaking: Shonisani Netshia, Keboni Ramasimong, Kim Berman(UJ) and Jane Hassinger and Leah James (University of Michigan). Photographs by Debbie Rasiel (NY) July 2008

Eco-Fuel briquettes

Joint programme by Phumani Paper (PP), Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment (GDACE), and the University of Johannesburg (through support by the NRF and Ford Foundation)

The eco-Fuel briquette research project was initiated by the PRDU as an interdisciplinary research project to extend community engagement activities across UJ faculties. The NRF awarded Kim Berman’s research activity the benefit of BTech research assistants annually from different disciplines to contribute to new research for income generation. BTech research assistants were appointed within the fields of Visual Arts, multimedia, Graphic Design, Chemical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, as well as in Development Studies. A key challenge experienced by most rural and urban business units was to sustain and increase their income base through extensive product development. The PRDU was active in assisting community-based enterprises to diversify their income base by introducing new and innovative products. 

Eco-fuel briquettes were seen as a viable option to introduce into Phumani Paper business units as an added benefit to income generation. The Phumani units produce paper with area-specific fibres and invasive plant species.  The process utilised in hand papermaking for the breaking down of plant fibres is similar to that of the method used in the production of fuel briquettes.  The fuel briquettes had numerous environmental benefits and socio-economic benefits for impoverished households. It is an alternative to coal and paraffin that is both cheaper and less harmful to people and the environment.  This innovation successfully benefited at least two Phumani projects: Twanano in Ivory Park and Thuthukani Papermakers in Tsakane, Gauteng.

This interdisciplinary research project established the following linkages within the UJ

  • Department of Visual Art, FADA (UJ): Housing the PRDU and contributing  community based art research and development, through Masters and BTech students
  • Chemical Engineering Technology (UJ): development of viable recipes for briquettes, as part of the post-graduate research of students in Chemical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering (UJ): development and refinement of portable biomass-compactor (press) for us in local contexts, as part of post-graduate research of students in Mechanical Engineering
  • Development Studies (UJ): research into factors influencing the choice of energy sources in households in Gauteng township areas
  • Department of  Graphic Design (UJ): students design packaging and marketing materials for different market segments for the eco-fuel briquettes
  • Department of Industrial Design (UJ): development of stoves for use in burning the eco-briquettes

In partnership with the GDACE, the product of eco-fuel briquettes was presented to community members in Tsakane Township on the 5th of March 2009. At the event, members of the Thuthukani Papermakers and Designers group presented free samples of the product to attending community members, who were contacted to provide feedback information on their experiences of using the briquettes. This research resulted in J Pilusa’s (Chemical Engineering) Masters study. Two articles describing these areas of research collaboration has been published in the FADA Research Newsletter (June 2008/Issue10) and on the UJ intranet. (http:// www.uj.ac.za/researchinnovation )

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The Papermaking Research and Development Unit (PRDU), and the Phumani Archival Papermill @ UJ

The PRDU, was an active research activity funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and University Research Committee (URC) between 1998-2012, through the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture (FADA). It had an active postgraduate programme with six Masters’ students who conducted the necessary research that contributed to the establishment of Phumani Paper. All primary research was tested and implemented in the field, creating vital and action-based experiential learning. Participatory Action Research was accepted as a primary methodology for the establishment of a Master’s programme with a mode in community-based-arts in the Department of Visual Arts.

The PRDU has attracted visiting experts from around the world such as renowned papermakers Robbin Silverberg (Pratt Institute, NY), Gail Deery (Harvard University, Boston), Susan Gosin (Dieu Donne Paper), Anne McKeowen (Rutgers University) and Asao Shimuro, (Philippines). Student Interns from Brandeis University, USA Museum School of Fine Art, Boston, Karel de Grote Hogeskool, Belgium, and the University of Michigan have visited and participated in internships in community development of various sites. FADA has hosted a Fulbright Scholar, Professor Pam Allara, who assisted in redefining research opportunities in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) to accommodate a diversity of research methodologies to include Participatory Action Research (PAR). This was extended to a four year exchange with the University of Michigan since 2005, in which UJ and UM students have participated in fruitful exchanges and the development of a programme called “New Partners New Knowledge” that hosted three seminars and exhibitions on Photovoice and Participatory Action Research. 

The PRDU further developed a capacity for collaborative print and hand-made paper artworks in partnership with Dieu Donne and Rutgers University’s Brodsky Centre. This capability has already attracted participation from the top artists in South Africa including Penny Siopis, Debbie Bell, Paul Molete others. Two successful portfolios were produced or ‘published’ in association with Rutgers University, the second one receiving sponsorship of Artbank Joburg. This facility is modelled on the Rutgers Centre for Innovative Print and Paper as a self-supporting artist’s collaborative unit that is income-generating.

The Faculty of Art Design and Architecture (FADA) has recognised the facility as a valuable resource to artists and designers and supported its move to the Bunting Road campus where a new Mill was launched in June 2013. This unit has facilitated numerous artist collaborations and will host a papermaking workshop by papermaker Michelle Samour and USA student visit to FADA in April/May of 2014. This workshop will extend the use of paper into 3-d applications. 

The Phumani Archival Paper Mill @UJ provides the following services:

1. Specialized Paper of all sizes according to specifications from clients. The papers are made from a range of fibres such as hemp, pineapple fibre, banana stem fibre, milkweed, cotton and sisal. The papermakers have developed a range of products utilizing fibre and paper as a medium.

2. Collaborative Projects and Workshops: The papermakers are able to creating specific paper artworks in collaboration with artists in to realise their ideas through the medium of paper pulp and printmaking.

The current team at the Archive Paper Mill @ UJ includes: Nkosinathi Ndladla and Dumisani Dlamini

Contact Nathi : 0781532107 or Kim Berman : kimb@uj.ac.za/ 082 7746745

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Landi Raubenheimer and Nathi Ndladla working on her art piece

 

Prof. Federico Freschi, Executive Dean of FADA, opens the Phumani Paper Mill, June 2013

HaMakuya: Community engaged Action learning 

Arts based approaches to Development, is a community-engaged programme that was funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) from 2011 to 2013 and housed in the Visual Art Department at UJ. Funding awarded to Kim Berman’s research activity facilitated the establishment of a community engagement course in the curriculum for 4th year Visual Art students as well as the annual interventions with a range of outcomes. The interdisciplinary programme, involves lecturers and students from the UJ Departments of Visual Art, Sociology, Industrial Design, Fashion Design and Drama for Life at Wits University initiated ambitious arts action interventions responding to public health campaigns that took place in the remote Tshivenda speaking region of HaMakuya. 

Tshulu Trust is a not-for-profit organisation based in HaMakuya, a chieftaincy in the north-eastern Venda region of Limpopo Province (www.tshulutrust.org). Tshulu’s mission is to contribute towards alleviating poverty by assisting community development and facilitating employment opportunities in this particularly impoverished rural area. 

BTech students participate in an eight to ten week civic engagement seminar and collaborate with a team of Wits University Drama for Life facilitators in a week-long intervention in HaMakuya. Fourth year and Masters students spend a week at the site to initiate arts-based interventions that include photography, printmaking and mural painting. Students stay at Tshulu camp a well-resourced research facility and also participate in ‘home-stays’. These are cultural exchange immersions in which groups of four students stay with a Tshulu-trained translator/guide in a village homestead for two days and nights, taking part in the daily activities of the household. The goals for the project are to immerse art students in the everyday life of a rural community, to sensitise them to the ethics and complexities of collaborative interventions as well as introduce arts-based intervention They use visual methodologies such as Photovoice, Paper Prayers and mural painting and Developmental assessment strategies including Most Significant Change (MSC) and Appreciative Inquiry (AI). Their final reports, posters, murals and workbooks are of value both to the HaMakuya community and the research project. This model provides systematic evidence of the viability of using a complex, holistic approach to knowledge enquiry and practice and demonstrates that an arts-based approach can deliver tangible outcomes and transformational change. 

The Masters study conducted by Fashion student graduate Khaya Mchunu entitled: The development of a new sewing co-operative for Tshulu Trust in HaMakuya, Limpopo Province through arts-based training interventions, established an income generating project for local women in HaMakuya that has made an important contribution to skills development and poverty alleviation for the families involved.

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Artist Proof Studio 

Artist Proof Studio (APS) is a community art centre in Newtown, co-founded by Kim Berman and the late Nhlanhla Xaba in 1991, whose mission it is to train young, financially and educationally disadvantaged artists to achieve self-actualisation. Artist Proof Studio offers specialised training in printmaking, conducts community engaged projects and has a Gallery to market the work of its students and artists. APS also has a professional Printshop with five professional printers who collaborate with artists to produce editions and print portfolios. 

The UJ Visual Art Department has had a 20 year relationship with APS where printmaking students participate in exchanges and collaborations. It is also a site of work place learning, and an outcome is that many UJ Fine Art graduates have found employment as teachers and arts administrators at APS over the past two decades.

For its 21st year Anniversary, APS held a “Coming of Age Exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) in 2012 where UJ Visual Art students were involved as curator assistants and participants.  APS has also been the site of Masters and Doctoral research projects. Masters student, Claudia Hartwig, conducted her research study at APS where she was employed as a part-time teacher. Her dissertation: The role of screen-print projects in enhancing active citizenship: a case study within Artist Proof Studio used co-operative inquiry to implement three curricula-led projects to measure change and increase students’ active citizenship through particular community engagement or outreach projects. She graduated cum-laude and received the Chancellor's Medal for an outstanding research project. 

The Community Engagement Office awarded the Visual Art Department an Award for its outstanding work with APS in 2013.

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Claudia Hartwig conducting her screenprinting research project at APS