On 17 October 2019, UP Campus Tours took guests back in time during the 100th-anniversary celebration of the Faculty of the Humanities, under the mentorship of Prof. Karen Harris. Through dramatically re-enacting historical figures, the history of the Faculty of Humanities was retold as the tour visited the 4 buildings where Humanities has been situated. Prominent University figures such as Prof. Tawana Kupe and Prof. Vasu Reddy were some of the guests in attendance. The journey back in time began at Kya-Rosa, the birthplace of the University.



Kya-Rosa was originally a house on the corner of Schoeman and Skinner Street. The house was named by Leo Weinthal after his wife Rosa and the neighbouring house Kya Lami. The whole University was situated in this Victorian house at one point. In 1908 the first students started attending classes but from 1909 until 1915 it was used as a residence for students. From there, the University moved to a big open field that had enough space to accommodate the expansion of the University.

By 1979 the original building had become dilapidated and it was suggested that an exact replica be built on campus in order to preserve the University’s heritage. So, on 10 February 1983, exactly 75 years after TUT opened its doors, Rector Professor DM Joubert turned the first turf on the campus to mark the start of the relocation and rebuilding of Kya-Rosa.


“The journey back in time began at Kya-Rosa, the birthplace of the University.”


Danolien van den Berg and Thando Mthimkulu, two Cultural and Heritage Studies Honours Students, were the presenters for the night. They invited guests to take a glass of sherry and cheers the vice-chancellor after he gave an informal speech at the start of the event. Next, Mrs Rosa, the wife of Mr Weinthal, was portrayed by Jean-Marie Roussuw in a re-enactment where she explained her involvement regarding the name of the house. Afterwards, she invited everyone to enjoy some of her speciality cucumber sandwiches in the trim garden of the replica of the Late Victoria style house.

From Kya-Rosa, guests moved across the road, where Nikita Smuts read a poem written about Jacarandas in the early 1900s. This was especially fitting as the Jacarandas were in full bloom at the time and these trees have formed a huge part of the identity of the University over the years. From there guests took a walk past the Merensky Library, Old Chemistry Building and Zoology building to arrive at the iconic Old Arts building.


Old Arts Building

The Old Arts building was constructed between 1910 and 1911 from sandstone when it was formally opened by Lord Gladstone and General Smuts. Interestingly, the Old Chemistry building was actually built to house the Physics and Chemistry Departments whereas the Old Arts Building housed the rest of the University. The Old Arts Building is a symbol of the beginning of the University that we know today and was designed by P. Eagle, the principal architect of the Department of Public works.

When the cornerstone was laid, General Smuts, representing minister F.S. Malan, said that “he hopes that T.U.K. will be for our country like Oxford is for England, perhaps we need to see the grass grow a hundred times before that happens, but at least we have a good start”. (translated).


“Jacarandas were in full bloom at the time and these trees have formed a huge part of the identity of the University over the years”


At the Old Arts Building one hundred years later, Honours students re-enacted some of these key figures who frequented the University, including the first female student and the first Rector of the time.

Today the University is aware of the controversial history of the Faculty of Humanities and the University itself. In an interview with Prof. Vasu Reddy, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, about his opinion of the controversy around the history, he responded “the history of the Faculty of Humanities is the story of a dynamic and responsive entity, often acting as a mirror on the contemporary social, cultural and political world in which it has been situated. 2019 represents further new beginnings as the Faculty looks back on points of pride and also of difficulty, the accomplishments and the challenges, the people that have made them and the ideas that have shaped and are shaping the Faculty”.


The New Arts Building

On 15 October 1945, a committee contested that the state of the Old Arts building was “scandalous” and the Rector advised that a new building should be built to rectify the situation. The building was finally built in 1950 and the architects, Lodge and Burg, were instructed to harmonise it with the old arts building. Thus, the more modern New Arts building shares many similarities with the Old Arts building.

The post-war boom of student populations meant that buildings were constructed at an exponential rate and the Faculty of Humanities received a new home, the New Arts Building (today the Theology Building). This was the first building that housed the Faculty of Humanities by itself and most other faculties have received their own buildings as well.

As guests arrived at the New Arts Building they were welcomed by an Opera performance by Nolien Wilsnach, an Honours student in Heritage and Cultural Studies.


“The post-war boom of student populations meant that buildings were constructed at an exponential rate”


After her performance, the figures of Anna Neethling-Pohl (portrayed by Megan Rupping) and Sandra Prinsloo (portrayed by Kylie Joubert), addressed the audience. Spectators were told how Anna Neethling-Pohl retaliated against the appointment of a Sociologist as the Head of the Drama Department. Afterwards, guests were served a three-course meal in the meditation garden square next to the New Arts Building.


Humanities Building

The final destination on the tour was the current Humanities Building, which unified the various disciplines of the Humanities that were once dispersed among several buildings.

Building vertically instead of horizontally solved the problem of space and simultaneously created a visual icon the University could be identified by.

The current Humanities building at first stood over Roper Street and it created a safe passageway for pedestrians to cross the road until Roper street was permanently closed and incorporated into the University’s internal road system.

In 1973 the University obtained permission from City Council to temporarily close the piece of Roper street stretching between Lynnwood and Duxbury road in order to construct the R5.6 million concertina shaped building. On 28 October 1977, the building was officially opened for use and at that time over 20% of lecture halls and UP Staff were housed in the building.


“Building vertically instead of horizontally solved the problem of space…”


Today the building still juts into the Pretoria skyline but the campus looks vastly different compared with how it did in the 1970s. In the middle of where Roper Street used to run, a University centenary flame was erected where Prof. Vasu Reddy had the honour of lighting the centenary flame for the first time in just over a decade. Prof. Reddy reflects on this opportunity saying “lighting the centenary flame was particularly humbling as we recognise that fire is a symbol of creation, destruction, light and transformation. Fire consumes, it warms, illuminates and engenders inspiration. For Humanities and the University, the centenary flame is also about recognising where we come from, our history, dynamism and resilience. More importantly, it is about how we can look at the flame to forge ahead with the will, determination to continue with the academic and knowledge project as humanists.”

From there the guests moved into the Humanities building’s foyer where the concluding remarks were made. This event transported guests back to the University’s infancy and the 100-year mark of the Faculty of Humanities only serves as a new benchmark for the future.


Photograph: Provided

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