Heritage Forum

University celebrates Constitution with new work of art

Nov 8, 2020 | Forum, News

Stellenbosch University commissioned artist, Strijdom van der Merwe to design an art work to celebrate the Constitution of South Africa. This art work is at the Law Faculty’s main building on campus, the Old Main Building in Ryneveld street.

The separate metal plates of the art work represent the preamble to the Constitution in three language, Afrikaans, Xhosa and English. Professor Nicola Smit, the dean of the Law Faculty, says that the preamble to the Constitution is a commitment to a society that embraces social justice. From this perspective the art work at the entrance to the faculty is appropriate and inspiring, according to Professor Smit.

This art work forms part of the Law Faculty’s contribution to the University’s Visual Redress project. Based on extensive consultations with the University’s members of staff, students, management committees and external role players, the Visual Redress project came to life with the aim to add inclusive art and symbols on campus.

Strijdom van der Merwe, the celebrated landscape artist, was selected to design the artwork at the Law Faculty. Van der Merwe, who himself attended class in the 80’s in the Old Main Building, has fond memories of the building. He explains that as this building is often used as a visual symbol of the University, he took care not to interfere with the building’s front view. He explains that the art work originated with a specific idea, but that based on the input from various role players, the design went through several alterations before finding form in its current state.

When the sun shines at different times of the day through the text of each metal plate, it creates for each person passing by a dynamic and unique experience with the preamble to the Constitution.


Dr Leslie van Rooi, who is the senior director of the University’s committee on Transformation and Social Impact explains that the work creates opportunities to reflect and have conversations on lessons learnt from the past and the possibilities that the future holds. According to Dr Van Rooi the purpose is to conceptualise heritage by placing a contemporary work of art that resembles the spirit of today next to the classic architecture of the Old Main Building.

The Old Main Building was first used in 1866 and became the home of the Law Faculty since the faculty’s origin in 1921. The Law Faculty will celebrate its centenary in 2021.

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