RECAST: Recontextualising the Classical Casts in the UJ Collection

The University of Johannesburg‘s (UJ’s) Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) is proud to present RECAST Recontextualising the Classical Casts in the University of Johannesburg Collection, from 20–28 March 2018.

UJ has a collection of 25 plaster casts of classical sculptures, ranging from copies of archaic kouroi to full-size casts of the Nike of Samothrace, and the Aphrodite of Melos, which, for most of their lives, have been hidden in plain sight on campus. The marginalisation of these objects is not unusual, particularly in the South African context. As uncomfortable reminders of an era when culture was didactic, elitist and emphatically Eurocentric, they present obvious challenges for curators, interpreters and historians alike. Thus, it is hardly surprising that where collections of classical objects (or plaster casts) exist in South African public institutions, they have been, at best, marginalised or relegated to storage, and at worst destroyed.

This exhibition, curated by Federico Freschi (Executive Dean of FADA), aims to open a debate around these objects, and to consider what we might learn from them. If, as the Museum of Classical Archaeology at the University of Cambridge claims, “Every cast tells two stories. One ancient. One modern,” the existence of a comprehensive and intact collection of classical plaster casts at a South African university widely celebrated for its achievements in transformation raises the interesting potential to provide additional narratives as we seek to make sense of their past(s), present and future. The exhibition and the accompanying seminar (led by Grant Parker, Chair, Department of Classics, Stanford University and with a response by Anna Tietze, University of Cape Town) will provide an opportunity for dialogue and thoughtful engagement with these objects, disentangling them from their associations with Eurocentric didacticism, and recasting them as complex objects whose avatars have had a long and profound impact on the shaping of humanist philosophical thought.

An exhibition and seminar to be held at the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (FADA) at the University of Johannesburg, 20–28 March 2018. To RSVP for either of these events, please go to

For more information, please contact Annali Dempsey, exhibition coordinator from the UJ Arts Gallery on or 011 559 2099.


UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (FADA), produces and presents world-class student and professional arts programmes aligned to the UJ vision of an international university of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future. A robust range of arts platforms are offered on all four UJ campuses for students, staff, alumni and the general public, to experience and engage with emerging and established Pan-African and international artists drawn from the full spectrum of the arts.

In addition to UJ Arts & Culture, FADA ( offers programmes in eight creative disciplines, in Art, Design and Architecture, as well as playing home to the NRF SARChI Chair in South African Art & Visual Culture, and the Visual Identities in Art & Design Research Centre. The Faculty has a strong focus on sustainability and relevance, and engages actively with the dynamism, creativity and diversity of Johannesburg in imagining new approaches to art and design education.