St John's College

St John's College welcomed Prof Patika Ntuli as the keynote speaker at the 3rd Hugh Lewin Memorial Human Rights Lecture.

Prof Pitika Ntuli and Mr Peter Wright

“I am a soul that emerges,” wrote our speaker today – “I hallucinate sculptures, dream paintings and shed ideas as trees.”

Welcome to today’s 3rd annual Hugh Lewin Memorial Human Rights Lecture. A special welcome to Ms Fiona Lloyd, Ms Tessa Lewin and Ms Thandi Lewin, Hugh’s family who are attending online, Zweli Ntuli and Basil Manning (an old friend of Hugh’s), to members of the Council of St John's, several prominent South Africans, the Headmaster, teachers, staff and students of St John’s College – both physically present and online.

A warm welcome and special thanks to our guest speaker

For our speaker, it is easy to paint a picture of outstanding success against all odds – a man raised in a squatter camp who became a professor in fine arts.

Prof Ntuli boasts a magnificent CV – MA’s from Pratt Institute and Brunel University, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Durban Westville, Director at Univ Kwazulu Natal, senior posts at a host of local and international Academic institutions; more than 20 publications, solo and curated exhibitions - these at the most prestigious Galleries, locally and internationally, and many commissions of his artwork. Our guest speaker today is a regular commentator on cultural, social and economic issues for a wide range of TV and Radio stations.

He is a man who rose to international prominence despite extreme local oppression – who turned exile into growth and who turned a waste wheelbarrow into art. As has been said about him: “In whatever medium (he) works, there is always an exploration of language. His work is a labyrinth of paradoxes, similes, visual and verbal puns. The rich tradition of metaphor and sign in African culture are used to challenge the pessimistic impasse of European art where the foregrounding of language has served to isolate art and the artist from the social.”

Our speaker’s opus of work is not simply a juxtapositioning of ideas but an intertwining of complex paradoxes to challenge our perceptions and challenge reality itself. That is because today’s speaker has profound insights into humanity and what it is to be truly a person.

Professor Pitika Ntuli, it is a wonder and joy to welcome you to speak at our 3rd Annual Hugh Lewin Memorial Human Rights Lecture.

There is a rich celebration of human dignity and human rights in your intertwined ideas – a celebration from someone whose rights were denied and whose dignity was impugned as a young man in apartheid South Africa.

And in this, there is a reflection of Hugh Lewin (OJ Nash 1956) – a passionate South African, an anti-apartheid activist and a writer. He was imprisoned from 1964 to 1971 for his activities supporting the African Resistance Movement and spent 20 years in exile.

President Cyril Ramaphosa described Hugh Lewin as “an incredible writer and courageous soldier”. Lewin’s jailmate Paul Trewhela wrote: “He sought for no high office, and never trumpeted his name. He always did what he thought was right, no matter what the cost.”

Born in 1939 to Anglican missionary parents, Hugh, at one stage, wanted to be a priest – and was influenced greatly by Father Trevor Huddleston. But like William Wilberforce, he realised that his particular calling was in the political sphere where he would live and fight for human rights, especially using his artistic talents.

Thus it is most fitting to have as our speaker today Professor Pitika Ntuli.

I ask that all present here, and the far greater number in the virtual world, join me in welcoming our 3rd Hugh Lewin Lecture, Professor Pitika Ntuli.

Thank you, sir!

- Peter Wright, Senior Deputy