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Saturday, December 6, 2008


DUT Fashion and textile design student wins prestigious art scholarship award.

In November, the Durban University of Technology once again hosted The Emma Smith Art Scholarship Awards in the DUT Art Gallery. This Scholarship was founded by the Hon C G Smith in April 1920 in memory of his mother and it is intended to benefit equally those who intend to become painters, sculptors, designers, art craftsmen and art educators.

The amount available for this Scholarship is determined annually at the beginning of the academic programmes of each year by the Executive Management of the Durban University of Technology. The prize money for this year’s winner is R25,000.

Competing in this year’s competition were: Nothando Mkhize and Saskia Whitehead (Fine Art); Sofia Da Silva and Nicholas Rose (Jewellery Design); Joel van Vuuren and Ravi Govender (Fashion & Textile Design); Wesley van Eeden and Julie Patrick (Graphic Design); Nastassja Shroeder and Shona Johnson (Drama Studies); Bwalya Lungu and Natasha Shoeman (Photography), and Taryn de Bruyn (Interior Design).

All participating candidates were given a space at the art gallery to display some of their best artworks along with a portfolio. The exhibition was then viewed by the competition judges for the final decision. At each viewing, the judges interviewed each candidate to learn more about their work.

The winner of this year’s Emma Smith Art Scholarship, Fashion and Textile Design student Joel Janse van Vuuren. The high class designs of his haute couture collection that he showed at the fashion show proved to be most impressive. With his creative approach and originality, he displayed professionalism and a broader understanding of his field of study and was truly a well deserved winner.

“My diploma fashion collection was an opportunity to mature my personal style and creativity,” explains Joel Janse van Vuuren. “It also became a vehicle to reassess and explore the ideas in my proposal written earlier this year - which I intend to explore and research next year in my Bachelor of Technology in Fashion. This collection is based on the concept of shadow play in a visual and conceptual sense.”

When using the word shadow, Joel Janse van Vuuren associates this with his childhood, from the playful game of shadow puppets to story books and imagery such as J M Barrie’s Peter Pan and his relationship with his shadow. He titled his project Les Enfants de la Nuit (The Children of the Night) and his concept evolved “within a narrative that is not only playful but fairly dark therefore creating a collection based on shadows, both literally and metaphorically”.

“In the fashion sense,” Joel Janse van Vuuren continues, “shadows can be seen as literal translations of the silhouettes of an ensemble into a graphic outline. I decided to engage into a reversal of that concept by experimenting with spilled ink blots on paper – which I then folded or pressed to another sheet. The resulting ink blot shapes were each unique with different ‘personality’ which I then transferred into fashion illustrations. I then transformed these ink blot silhouettes into fashion illustrations. This abstract method was the starting point for my designs, which I then further developed into technical drawings of garments building up my collection.

“I recently composed a research proposal as part of my theory module for my National Diploma in Fashion. My proposal looks at shadows as metaphors in context of the relationship between the developments of Haute Couture fashion to commercial fashion, in a South African context. This thinking influenced my diploma collection which resulted as half my collection being Haute Couture ensembles and the other half being their commercial derivatives. Here, the ‘body’ would be my Haute Couture designs, which filter down into their respective ‘shadow’ commercial versions.

Joel Janse van Vuuren’s core concept is supplemented by the ways in which beauty is perceived. He is inspired by the work of the Pre-Raphaelites “who were said to have captured romantic impressions of life with reference to historical events, characters and people”. Another aesthetic influence came in the work of contemporary South African photographer Pieter Hugo. The Highgate Cemetery in London, built during the Victorian Era, provided the final inspiration. “Highgate Cemetery has not been maintained since the early Twentieth Century,” he explains. “Walking through the now derelict and overgrown cemetery, one is haunted by its history and the beauty of nature reclaiming what was once conquered by man. These are a few of the factors that encapsulate an ideal of beauty which I have strived to project in my work.”

For further enquiries please contact, the Gallery Curator on 031 373 2207 or e-mail