Jazz Artists Meet Famed Painter and South African Embassy Officials

The Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Music has been delighted to welcome back students and faculty from the University of KwaZulu-Natal from Durban, South Africa. For the past three years, musicians from VCU and UKZN have participated in the Jazz Bridge exchange program. During this year’s exchange, the South African five students and two faculty members have toured Richmond, attended jazz and music industry classes, and have participated in student jam sessions.

On Thursday, Sept. 25, the group toured VMFA, meeting with Richard Woodward, curator of African art, who introduced them to Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu, her granddaughter and assistant Marriam Mahlangu and liaison Grace Masango. The students and VCUart leadership marveled at Esther’s two VMFA-commissioned murals, which are almost finished. Like the paintings Ndebele women paint on their houses in South Africa, these massive works flank the entrance to the museum’s African gallery, and echo the bold geometric patterns throughout that collection.

Coinciding with their visit were officials from the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa, Ms. Nowetu Ethel Luti, Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission; and Mr. Ndumiso Mngadi, Third Secretary: Public Diplomacy. What a happy convergence in celebration of the culture of South Africa.

“The Jazz Bridge exchange program is more than just a musical collaboration across the globe,” says Antonio Garcia, associate professor and director of Jazz Studies at VCU. “It’s the opportunity for students and faculty to explore the idea of jazz as a voice of social justice on both continents.”

The exchange program is made possible by a grant from the VCU Global Education Office and VCUarts.

– Amy Sheets, VCUarts communications with Suzanne Hall, VMFA communications