[Article by Development & Alumni Relations]
Stellenbosch University (SU) has unveiled an iconic 10-ton functional art piece – the THINK Bench – which was donated to the University by GT Ferreira, a Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) founder and SU alumnus.
The 13-metre sculptural public artwork, designed to celebrate and encourage innovative and collaborative solutions, will now be a permanent fixture on the lawn in front of the Faculty of Engineering complex in Banghoek Road.
The bench was designed by renowned artist Louis Olivier and his team from the Workhorse Bronze Foundry in Johannesburg.
The bench spells out the word ‘THINK’ from one side, while another perspective reveals life-sized human silhouettes in different thinking poses. It acts as a reflective reminder to students passing by that sometimes one needs to change one’s perspective to think differently.
Sandri du Plessis, Engineering Student Council Chair, said the artwork will contribute immensely to a more transformative and diverse campus and community.
“We are really trying to move towards a more diverse, more transformative student experience and I think the THINK Bench will really be a constant reminder of that (vision). We are planning on utilising this extensively and I hope that other faculties will use it too. We really want to try to get to a point where we are an integrated university community.”
Ferreira, who co-founded RMB over four decades ago, said he donated this bench to act as a visible prompt to inspire students to do what all students are supposed to do but don’t always do – and that is to sit and think instead of just absorbing information in class and regurgitating it in exams.
“While this might sound trite the effort that is put into thinking is often underestimated. It was Henry Ford who coined the following phrase in 1928: ‘Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few people engage in it‘.”
He added that students should use the bench to think how they can make the world and South Africa a better place.
“Think about important issues such as how can I help to promote racial harmony in the country, how can I assist in solving the problem of unemployment, how can I assist this university to become even better.”
Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, said that the University is on a journey of renewing its institutional culture, of visually redressing its physical spaces.
“Therefore, this RMB THINK Bench is a very well-timed addition to the changing Stellenbosch University landscape. We strive to be forward thinking and thought leaders and innovators through research who come up with solutions to complex questions and challenges we face in our country, continent and the world. That is exactly the response that we would like the THINK Bench to evoke in us. But not only that, it will also force us to have diversity of thought, to have students and staff and a greater university community who don’t just think alike but who challenge each other to improve our ideas.”
The interactive sculpture that could host more than 20 students, seated, is a replica of a greater edition in concrete commissioned by RMB, the first of which was installed on the RMB Think Precinct at its Sandton headquarters in Johannesburg and now is a recognisable landmark in Sandton. The THINK Bench project was inspired by RMB’s vision to be part of an initiative to unlock creative and innovative energy in prominent places of ‘fearless thinking’ around the country.
ABOUT RAND MERCHANT BANK
Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) is a leading corporate and investment bank and part of one of the largest financial services groups (by market capitalisation) in Africa – FirstRand Limited. It offers clients innovative, value-added advisory, funding, trading, corporate banking and principal investment solutions.
As the corporate and investment banking arm of FirstRand, RMB has access to a network of banks in 10 African countries, as well as representative offices in Kenya, Angola and China, and branches in the UK and India.
RMB believes in art (in all its diverse forms) as a universal language. It has no boundaries and has the ability to capture the spirit of time, transform lives, impact the economy and unite societies. Unlike sport, in art there are no losers – everyone wins. The RMB Fund supports organisations in the disciplines of music, dance, drama, visual art and heritage to develop talent, empower artists and unlock social transformation. The bank also creates powerful platforms to provide easy access to art, develop and showcase artists and elevate art collecting across a wider, more diverse market to strengthen the Creative Economy.
Another key focus is the attraction of young talent through the Minds that Matter graduate campaign.
For more information please visit: www.rmb.co.za
Photograph: Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, and members of the Engineering Student Council. (Insert) Prototype THINK Bench.