Set to open later this year, the Javett-UP Art Centre (Javett-UP) at the University of Pretoria, will permanently house the famed Mapungubwe collection, among other local and international pieces.

The Mapungubwe treasures are fashioned after animals such as a rhino, a cow and a wild cat, as well as objects such as a sceptre and a bowl – all made out of gold.

“The Javett-UP’s own curated temporary exhibitions as well as visiting local and international exhibitions representing the entire spectrum of the art of Africa will be shown,” writes director of the Javett-UP, Christopher Till, on the University of Pretoria website.

“The centre was designed by Mathews and Associates Architects and is destined to become a focal point for the art of Africa,” says Till.

“It will consist of various indoor exhibition spaces, including a bridge gallery spanning Lynnwood Road, a restaurant, a 117-seat auditorium, and outdoor exhibition venues. There will also be a customised studio for the study of preventive conservation and preservation of cultural heritage resources. The bridge gallery descends into an art square and student gallery on the Hatfield Campus at the south end of historic Tukkie Laan.”

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An advanced kingdom

The Mapungubwe gems were found during the 1930s near today’s SA border with Zimbabwe.

Mapungubwe was the centre of a thriving kingdom in southern Africa about a thousand years ago, having robust trade with China and India.

It is the earliest known site in southern Africa with evidence of a class-based society. The kingdom’s leaders were separated from the rest of the inhabitant and the golden figures were discovered in three royal graves.

The discovery proved that there were developments and artistic productions at the start of the second millennium and showed that complex societies existed before the arrival of colonial powers.

The Javett-UP is a partnership between the University of Pretoria and the Javett Foundation.

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Sources: Javett-UP and University of Pretoria

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