Michaela and Zdenek Bakala were pleased to support a project that focuses on the education of children and youth in South Africa. The unique learning program of the Norval Foundation in Cape Town aims to support alternative and innovative ways of art education to children from underpriviliged communities, and through art to develop their visual literacy, critical thinking and relationship to the cultural heritage, and identity of the country and the whole continent.
The Norval Foundation celebrates its fifth anniversary this year and boasts one of the largest private collections of 20th and 21-st century South African art. The Norval family established the museum and the eponymous Foundation with the ongoing aim to make art widely available to the public through the creation a self-sustaining center for art dedicated to the research, education and care of twentieth and and twenty-first century visual art from Africa and its diasporas.
The Foundation realizes this commitment through its exhibitions, educational programs, publications, research, art prize and stewardship of the Homestead Collection. In addition, the Learning Centre was later established to focus on quality art education programs accessible to children of all ages, with the majority of learners being from under-resourced communities.
The educational sector in South Africa is under pressure, and there is a significant gap in the syllabus where art education and art history are concerned. “South Africa is a multicultural country that has gone through and is still going through a complex evolution. Through the arts, children can be offered a comprehensible view of the fundamental themes and phenomena of the society where they grow up. Art can visually interpret these phenomena of each era and offers young viewers the opportunity to confront their own reality. They can identify with the artists’ ideas or, on the contrary, disagree with them. In this way, they form their own opinion, which is essential for the development of their critical thinking,” says Michaela Bakala about the support for the project.
In 2022, more than 6,000 learners participated in the their sponsored program, which is open to all schools or NGOs. This year, the Foundation would like to increase its capacity to accommodate 1,000 learners per month. Twenty thousand US dollars donation via the family Bakala Foundation will help to fulfill these bold plans.
During the excursion, children and students accompany specially trained facilitators and guides. The program includes a guided tour of the museum and sculpture garden, where the curriculum teaches children some art historical concepts and introduces them to the exhibiting artists and their life stories. In addition, all children will receive their own Making Art History workbook published by the Foundation. Throughout the program, they work creatively with it and use it to discover art gradually. They will also try out different art activities and and their interpretation skills during their visit.
An integral part of the day’s non-traditional experience is providing safe transport there and back, and something we often take for granted but it is important for children from disadvantaged families: a nutritious donated lunch pack and drinks to keep them going while they visit.
About Homestead Collection
Assembled by the Norval family over the past two decades, the Homestead Collection sone of the leading 20th-century South African art collections. It is committed to an expanded narrative of South African art that includes both African voices and archival materials of established South African modernists.
The Homestead Collection has acquired the Alexis Preller Archive, the Edoardo Villa Estate Collection and the Bruce Campbell Smith Revisions Collection, among others. It also includes in-depth holdings of artists such as Dumile Feni, Peter Clarke, Sydney Kumalo, Maggie Laubser, Ezrom Legae, Trevor Makhoba, John Muafangejo, George Pemba, Gerard Sekoto, Cecil Skotnes, Anton van Wouw, Deborah Bell, Irma Stern, Alexis Preller and Edoardo Villa. In addition, it also has a significant collection of books on South African art.
Art, Architecture, Landscape
Inherent in the Norval Foundation’s sustainable philosophy is the Foundation’s architecture. Envisioned by DHK Architects as a modern pavilion for art, the Foundation is set against a beautiful mountain and vineyard landscape of the Steenberg neighbourhood of Cape Town, adjacent to Table Mountain National Park.
The gallery spaces comprise a large exhibition venue and a series of six small galleries, culminating in a sculpture garden. The upper level accommodates a small gallery, offices, a library and a bar. Externally there is a large sculpture garden, with an amphitheatre, where works by Joni Brenner, Angus Taylor (see the title picture: Angus Taylor, Holderstebolder, 2018, Belfast Baggro granite and steel, Homestead Collection), Brett Murray, and Yinka Shonibare, to name a few, are on display.
Uniquely situated on the edges of a historically neglected natural wetland ecosystem, the Norval Foundation completely rehabilitated the wetlands and has become the custodian and protector of its indigenous plants and animals – specifically, the Western Leopard Toad, an indigenous species that has come under threat from rapid urbanisation.
The building has been specifically designed to minimise its environmental impact. For example, a large solar plant on its roof provides the Foundation’s power and feeds excess energy into the local power grid. A grey-water purification system also allows a high degree of independence from municipal water supplies.