Cultivating the Arts
Across the decades, Unisa has played a critical role in South Africa’s cultivation of music, fine arts and other creative disciplines. The University offered its first music examinations in 1894 in association with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in London and today serves up to 20,000 students across South Africa and Namibia. Through the Unisa Music Foundation, children in townships across Gauteng are being introduced to classical and jazz instruments by leading orchestra performers who act as volunteer tutors. Unisa’s music competitions are also of global repute.
Many well-known South African musicians are products of the Unisa exam system, including Europe-based tenor Musa Nkuna and leader of the London Philharmonic Orchestra Pieter Schoeman. In 1941, the renowned composer Michael Mosoeu Moerane became the first black person in South Africa to earn a BMus degree — through Unisa. Moerane created his signature masterpiece Fatse la heso (“My Country”) that same year. Under the auspices of the Unisa Music Foundation, the university hosts annual competitions, attracting local and international competitors.
Unisa’s art collection, acquired over more than 50 years, affords recognition to an extraordinary range of South African art, from the landscapes of Pierneef to Jackson Hlungwane’s mystical sculptures. The new Unisa Art Gallery in the Kgorong Building houses the collection and serves as a ‘living laboratory’ for the future of South African art, including a growing community of developing artists.
Should Unisa's initiatives in the arts be extended firstly to artists of proven talent, or should the emphasis be on supporting still-unproven talent?