Ellen Agnew – The girl behind the art degree

Ellen Agnew is the Irish dancing queen who doesn’t want to be tamed.

She appears over a dune in this vast desert and walks towards us. Ellen smiles and her eyes reflect this. They’re green, and she has freckles on her cheeks. She runs her right hand through her long, curly brown hair.

Like Ellen, her hair refuses to be controlled. Notice her nails; long and dark like Lana’s. “I’m obsessed with Lana del Rey,” she says looking down at them. Her makeup is minimal; red lips and mascara – classic.

Ellen is the second child, with an older brother, of an Irish father and a South African mother. The Irish genes shine through in her appearance and it’s easy to convince people of her heritage.

She was born on 28 May 1993 in Johannesburg, though they relocated to Stellenbosch after four years. Ellen and her brother, Jack, both attended Rhenish Primary school. They spent some of their childhood in the lush farms located in the idyllic Stellenbosch valley, playing in the orchards and skipping stones in the river.

In 2005 they relocated to Dubai. It is here where her love of Middle Eastern culture all started. She was educated in subjects such as Islamic Studies and Arabic.

Ellen’s father is an architect, which is why Dubai was the best location to be. He still resides in the United Arab Emirates, while her mother lives in Stellenbosch.

“They haven’t lived in the same house in almost 10 years,” said Ellen, “Yet they’re still married.”

She returned to Stellenbosch two years later along with her mother and brother. The siblings attended Somerset College and completed their high school education there.

The Artsy Child

“Ellen’s artistic spirit showed itself early on, when she insisted on painting an angel’s face blue at the pottery studio,” said her mother, Jenni. At the age of five, Ellen already had a strong will. Wanting to put her own twist on things and creating pieces that no other child even thought about.

Fashion is wearable art. Which is why Ellen’s dress sense is “unique”, according to her mother. The platform shoes, patterned dress and knitted top could be seen as hipster in Stellenbosch, but coming to know Ellen one realises she has created her own style.

You can see she’s an artist when you look at her hands. The way she holds her pen – or even a cigarette – it’s an elegant, graceful act. Those dark nails complement her excellent charcoal drawings.  The way she draws is an effortless performance, with the visage appearing out of the light-coloured haze of the paper.

What few people know is that Ellen is a talented Irish dancer, having done Irish dancing for close to 15 years.

“I’ll have to practise before I can show you though,” she says.

She took part in numerous competitions, travelling around South Africa as well as to Ireland for world championships. Not only did the Irish genes make their appearance in dance, but they found expressions in other talents as well.

“It’s been fantastic to be part of Ellen’s Irish-/-Highland dancing years, wonderful memories and experiences along the way,” says Jenni, her genuine pride is evident.

Ellen wanted to study dance but it broke her heart before she reached varsity. She doesn’t want to go into detail and you have to respect her choice of silence.

She eventually studied fine arts for four years at Stellenbosch University, which included her honours degree. Ellen majored in visual studies and English literature.

“They complemented each other because we could apply the concepts we learned in English to the work we were doing in Visuals.”

Ellen sees the complex connections between concepts and exploits them to her better understanding. According to Ellen, she ties together complicated political issues and visual art to create pieces that, “demonstrate that we’re not passive when we view […] presentational images of the media or representational images of artwork.”

Because of this political mind set, Ellen got accepted to do her master’s degree in Political Communication at the University of Cape Town. She decided to rather do an Honours degree in Journalism at Stellenbosch.

The Wild Quiet Child

“Ellen always seems to find herself on the fun and risky side of life. Which has its good and bad qualities,” says Alex, her best friend. “Though after long social encounters her favourite thing to do is curl up on the couch with her Jack Russels, while catching up on her current affairs.”

Ellen loves to read and some of her favourite books include The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Crime and Punishment and In Cold Blood. Her mother adds that both Ellen and Jack have a passion for books and reading. Once one sees Ellen’s ‘previously read’ list, you realise this is one well-read journalist-in-the-making.

“She can be firm, argumentative and sometimes impatient,” says Jenni.

Ellen confirms this. “I’m not a patient person, especially not with technology.” She looks at her phone and concedes that, yes, this device hasn’t betrayed her yet.

The wild child appears, says Ellen, when people tell her what to do. She sits back on her couch. “I’m kind of struggling in this class,” she admits. Last year during her Fine Arts degree, she didn’t have to report to anyone. She could stroll in and out of the Visual Arts Department whenever she wanted. She laughs. “It was great, you know.”

The Well-Travelled Child

“Europe all looks the same, except for the southern part.”

Ellen has travelled through a few countries in Europe, including Ireland, the Netherlands, Greece and Spain. With a great interest in American literature, like the Beat Generation authors, Jack Kerouac, and American modernist poets, Ellen aspires to travel through America and try to find a connection with these great art figures. She’s a free spirit, which is a cliché, but one that is true. An artist that is restrained, is not an artist.


Ellen is many things to many people; a daughter, a sister, a best friend, an artist.

“With a continuously surprising personality, Ellen will never to be predictable, and will always be centre stage on any of the possible ‘platforms’ she decides to brave,” says Alex Edmayr.

UWC prof addresses anti-multilingualism in academia

Stellenbosch – Professor Bassey Antia raised an important academic issue during a guest lecture at Stellenbosch University (SU), the recent anti-multilingualism in academic institutions.

Antia, a lecturer at the UWC Linguistics Department, delivered a lecture on the importance of terminology in assessment contexts within secondary and tertiary education on Thursday. He briefly addressed the subject of anti-multilingualism within academia, a notion that has become popular with particular student associations regarding language options.

His view comes after the Stellenbosch University crisis where the T-option was criticised in favour of a single medium teaching- and testing situation. US is currently undergoing transformation to a double-medium institution.

His discussion started with ‘testing accommodation’ which he defined as the, “modification of the test or testing situation to help students and ensure [language] barriers are removed.”

According to Antia the South African Department of Basic Education decided to provide Afrikaans and English matric exams papers as it would be easier than adding African languages spoken in the area.

Antia argues against this decision by saying that more languages need to be added to exam papers in order to improve testing accommodation, resulting in better scores.

It is a common belief in the linguistic field that bi- and multilingualism have cognitive benefits, thus Antia suggests that the potential of multilingual terminology needs to be exploited. He added that terminology can be seen as, “building blocks of specialised knowledge,” and that a specifically formatted exam paper might provide academic advantages.

Juliane Bockmühl, a post-graduate student at the Stellenbosch University Linguistics Department, stated that it is rarely a straightforward answer when dealing with multilingualism. She said that having multiple languages in exam papers might help.

“In-between languages there are different connotations attached to words, so building up on those various meanings that they gather from having more than one language might definitely increase understanding of the content and what is expected,” Bockmühl said.

This links with Antia’s view that multilingualism greatly affects students’ progress as they can consult both languages in test situations to find the correct answers.

Antia concluded his lecture and called on the government to consider his study’s results and invest in research around multilingualism. “This research should include providing mother-tongue education to students and testing them in multilingual situations where these advantages can take place,” said Bockmühl.

Antia emphasised that including more mother-tongue languages in assessment contexts will significantly improve results.

Lovelyn’s speech welcomed at SU convocation

Stellenbosch – Lovelyn Nwadeyi addressed members and attendees of the Stellenbosch University (SU) Convocation last night in a speech that was widely appreciated.

Nwadeyi surprised many when she started speaking fluent Afrikaans a few minutes into her speech.

Many believe that she spoke to the middle-class, conservative Afrikaans family, by stating concerns in their own language and making them sit up and take notice, said Chantelle Croeser, one of the attendees.

Nwadeyi discussed the current issues of who actually owns Afrikaans as a language, as well as the protection of languages. Nwadeyi said that Afrikaans doesn’t just belong to the white Afrikaans man, but to a lot of other people as well.

“Afrikaans is a lot of languages, it is different cultures,” she said.

According to Nwadeyi the protection of Afrikaans means protecting not just the purist version, but all other forms of the language found in South Africa.

She later mentioned that, “it is not the university’s job to protect a language, but the speakers themselves.”

Croeser, an Open Stellenbosch member, explained that what is meant with protecting purist Afrikaans at SU. “One race is taking a language and telling others how to use it,” she said. She added that the university is not a museum for preserving a language.

Lovelyn Nwadeyi is the first black person, and youngest black woman to ever speak at a SU Convocation. “The risk she took by speaking about the sensitive topic of Afrikaans caused a polarity in the room,” said Croeser.

Dana Snyman – ʼn storie-sendeling

Dana Snyman sien homself as ʼn storie-sendeling, iemand wat alles doen wat hy kan om die evangelie van stories uit te dra.

“Mense het stories op ʼn manier net so nodig as wat hulle brood en water nodig het om te kan leef,” sê die bekende storieverteller.

Wat In die Bloukamp, sy agste boek, anders maak is dat dit geïnspireer is deur sosiale media.

“Facebook is ʼn wonderlike plek om mense se stories te sien,” sê Dana. Hy het ʼn paar jaar gelede begin om stories op sy Facebook-bladsy te deel. Al die positiewe reaksie van die publiek het hom geïnspireer om ʼn bundel uit dié inskrywings saam te stel.

Nadat hy as misdaadverslaggewer by Beeld gewerk, het Huisgenoot en die reistydskrif Weg gevolg. As joernalis het hy Suid-Afrika platgereis en menigte mense ontmoet. Deesdae is Dana meer as gelukkig in Jacobsbaai aan die Weskus met sy drie honde. Hy is nou ʼn voltydse vryskutskrywer.

Dana het die vermoë om stories te vertel wat nostalgie opwek en hy gebruik sentimentaliteit in sy stories wat baie Afrikaners waardeer en wat soms ʼn traan uitlok. Op dié manier het hy ʼn volksliefling geword.

Hy beantwoord dieper vrae met geesdrif en is passievol oor die rol van stories vertel met woorde, eerder as beelde.

“Die geskrewe woord moet toenemend buig voor die visuele media. Daar is baie redes daarvoor, maar soms dink ek dis sommer net luiheid en gemaksug.”

Dana voel in Suid-Afrika se huidige politieke omstandighede moet Afrikaanse storievertellers “toenemend sensitief wees vir wat [hulle] sê.”

Hy meen dat mense deesdae dit makliker vind om ander te beskuldig wanneer hulle, hulle vrese uitspreek in die openbaar, en dat ons met meer simpatie en takt na mekaar moet begin luister.

“Die tong en die oor is vir my ewe belangrik.”

Hy voeg by dat Woordfees nog van altyd af sy gunstelingfees was; vir die min lawaai, sinvolle gesprekke, en dít boonop nog in ʼn mooi dorp.



Play aims to change opinions

Breughel Theatre – “You can’t change people’s perception with one play, but you can plant a seed to start awareness.”

This is how Jason Jacobs talked about As, a Woordfees production which deals with homophobia in South Africa.

As is a newly-translated play that looks at the attitudes towards gay people in the country; as well as the notions of family, love and acceptance. The play is a 2015 Standard Bank Ovation Award winner and traces the life of a young gay man through the eyes of six characters.

“In a society where being different is frowned upon, he aims to find a place where he feels comfortable and safe,” said Jacobs.

After the lead character comes out to his parents, they send him away from their small town to the city, in order to protect him, as well as to offer more opportunities. The play highlights the humanity of the characters and addresses the ideas of family and love.

As sends a powerful message of acceptance by family, but it is also about regret when it’s too late. Audiences at the Woordfees have been moved by theme of the play, as well as by the excellent acting and seamless switching between characters of the two-man cast.

“We used the same actors who starred in the original, Ashes, as they knew the story line and were thankfully both bilingual,” said director Philip Rademeyer.

Rademeyer is known for plays that include Siembamba and The View.

The drive behind the play is the violence against gay, lesbian and transgender people in South Africa. It was specifically inspired by three accounts of extremely violent murders of gay men in the greater Cape area in 2014. These attacks remained largely unreported in mainstream media. As attempts to highlight these issues in a way that will spark a debate and force society to acknowledge these issues.

“In one of the accounts a man was set on fire and I used that as a metaphor in that ashes is the remains after something is burnt,” Rademeyer said about the title.

Bouncer brawl victim not that innocent

An apparent innocent bystander was injured in a fight between a bouncer and a patron at a popular Stellenbosch bar last Monday.

According to Kevin Els (23), he was the victim of a bouncer-related skirmish outside Mystic Boer on 8 February. Els, a post-graduate law student at Stellenbosch University (SU), said he was trying to break up a quarrel between a friend and a bouncer when he was attacked by a bouncer who punched him in the face.

According to Jono Fann, a bartender, the bouncer is employed by both Mystic Boer and Bohemia. On last Monday night he was off-duty at Mystic Boer but on shift at Bohemia. He assisted in resolving the skirmish even though he was not working that night. Both bars were reluctant to give the bouncer’s contact details.

When asked if bouncer-related violence was increasing in Stellenbosch a bartender at Bohemia, who also prefers to remain anonymous for fear of dismissal, said that he only knew of one other incident earlier this year. He added that, “they know better than to get involved in fighting drunk students. They could get fired or sued.”

ANN7 cover Sona after interdict against Juju

Africa News Network7 has attended the State of the Nation address (Sona) on Thursday night, days after the television news channel won a court interdict against EFF leader, Julius Malema.

The New Age newspaper and ANN7, a 24-hour news broadcaster, both owned by the Gupta family, were threatened by Malema on 4 February in a press briefing where Malema stated that they “cannot guarantee the safety of those printing The New Age and ANN7.”

Malema received a letter from representatives of the Gupta family in which an explanation and a withdrawal of the statements were requested. He responded by adding that the Gupta family must vacate South Africa.

Later the same day, Malema stated to the Sunday Times that, “We must respect the courts. But the courts can’t stop us from saying that we don’t love the Guptas. We don’t want their curry.”

Since Sona is one of the biggest events on the political calender, most local broadcasters were in attendance and ANN7 was among this group. Their victory in The Gauteng North High Court resulted in a back down by Malema on his earlier threats.

EFF protestors faced stun grenades as well as rubber bullets when they clashed with police forces a few hours before President Zuma was to deliver his speech. At parliament a red EFF wave surged into the National Assembly attracting a lot of justified attention.

On Tuesday 9 February, the Gupta family and all its subsidiary companies were granted an interdict by the Gauteng North High Court against the EFF, as well as Julius Malema.

Editor-in-Chief of The New Age, Moegsien Williams, told the Sunday Times that, “Our employees have the right to go to work and do their jobs without the threat of violence.”