Increase access to the awe and splendor of the ancient world

University of Cape Town (UCT) lecturer at the School of Languages ​​and Literatures, Bianca Warley, gave an overview of the classics and the importance of making the discipline accessible to a wider audience, especially young and old. people of color.

The classics are the study of the ancient world, especially the study of Greek and Roman civilizations. Classical or classical studies also include the study of religion, art and architecture, literature, history, philosophy, economics, politics, archeology and classical languages ​​(Latin and Greek).

“Ultimately, Classics is the study of Greek and Roman cultures in their entirety, and the societies and cultures with which they interacted and influenced,” said Warley, who is currently completing his doctorate in ancient cultures. at the University of Stellenbosch. Her thesis is entitled “Cleopatra through the eyes of men: an ideological critique of the representations of Cleopatra VII from a feminist narratological perspective”.

Increase awareness

For the discipline to survive, Warley said, the general public needs to know what it entails.

“Interest has to be generated and piqued; and without a doubt, it must be relevant to the South African context. With the addition of COVID ‑ 19 to our daily lives, gatherings such as conferences or introductory events are limited to online platforms. However, with advancements in technology and the importance and influence of social media, a place to start could be to build a strong and active presence on social media, ”she said.

Representation of the Atlas of the Greek Titan, hidden in the CBD of Cape Town. Photo Lerato Maduna.

“I remember as a child watching a South African teacher talk about ancient Egypt and all its fascinating and fantastic stories; and it stuck with me all these years, growing and nurturing my passion for ancient cultures. In this modern society we live in now, there are so many platforms (podcasts, blogs, vlogs) at our disposal where we can engage with people, introduce them to the ancient world, broaden their horizons, and show them awe and fear. splendor that is the ancient world.

Growing scope

According to Warley, only a small group of individuals know and understand what Classics is; and that, she said, urgently needs to change.

“I can only speak from my experience both as a student of the ancient world and as a person of color. Over the years, when asked what I studied or what field I am in, my response has often been greeted with blank looks – followed by the general assumption that the classics refer to music. classic.

“We need to bring the ancient world back to the present. “

Model for Minotaur
“Model for Minotaur” by Nandipha Mntambo Photo Everard Read Gallery.

Likewise, she said, something that is often misunderstood is the concept of representation; that is, seeing someone of a similar ethnic identity in a role or position generally not accorded to their ethnicity for any reason.

“It’s a somewhat complicated concept to explain; but in my experience, representation on the ground is paramount for diversity and inclusiveness. I think to increase the reach of Classics and make it more accessible to a wider audience, we need to be more innovative, more accessible and more versatile. We need to bring the ancient world back to the present.

Identify representations

Classics and ancient studies have inspired so many, Warley said, and that inspiration comes in all its forms. Today, you can see the effects of Classics and its study in novels and films, such as the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson franchises; and in art, for example, in the sculptures of Tienie Pritchard and the bronzes of Nandipha Mntambo. Artistic representations in South Africa are plentiful.

“One of my favorite sculptures is that of Artemis (also known as Diana) and her dogs, the talented Deborah Bell,” said Warley. “Artemis stands proudly as the focal point of the garden in front of the Leeu Estate mansion in Franschhoek. Artemis is the Greek goddess of hunting, archery, wildlife, the moon, chastity, and childbirth. Like her twin Apollo, she embodies contradictory functions; and like Apollo, she portrays great strength but devastating brutality.

Artemis and his pack
Artemis and his pack. Artemis is the Greek goddess of hunting, archery, wildlife, the moon, chastity, and childbirth. Photo Bianca Warley.

“Another example of Greek mythology right in the heart of the CBD is the Titan Atlas atop St George’s Mall in Cape Town. Zeus condemned Atlas to hold the wide vault of the sky, as punishment for siding against him in the Titanomachy.

A final example would be a work of art titled Playing in the forest, by Erna Dry.

“The artwork depicts the Kharites (also known as the Graces) in a fruitful and densely populated forest. The Graces were three goddesses who personified beauty and charm. They were inspirers of artistic creation and were typically depicted as three nude women holding hands, dancing in a circle, or holding sprigs of myrtle, ”Warley said.

erna sec
“Frolicking in the Forest” by Erna Dry – a painting in which the artist incorporated the Graces, from Greek mythology, into the artwork. Photo Bianca Warley.

“What I like most about this room is that my husband found it while walking through the gallery of the estate. He is a UCT alumnus who knew absolutely nothing about classical or old studies when I met him. However, after several years of exposure to light, he was able to effortlessly spot it among a host of other works of art.

“It was such a proud moment. He called me up and said, “I think there’s a myth-inspired painting in the gallery here – you might want to check it out. And verify that I did. Intrigued by our sheer luck, I reached out to the artist, who spoke about his interest in mythology as a child, his love of stories and their impact.

Inspire young people

It is paramount, said Warley, that we share knowledge and inspire the study of this discipline among the younger generation.

“If we want to preserve this discipline and ensure a future for the classics, we must transform it and make it accessible and accessible to the general public. “

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About Glenn Gosselin

Glenn Gosselin

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