Portrait of Confucius leads to invitation to study in China

2014-05-26 00:00

A YOUNG Durban artist so impressed the Confucius Institute in Durban with his portrait of the Chinese philosopher Confucius that he has been invited to study in China, and to exhibit his work there.

Bongani Khanyile, who is originally from Greytown but now lives in Durban, created the portrait for the opening of the Institute’s offices on the ML Sultan campus of the Durban University of Technology in March last year.

“We believe the picture of Confucius is the first one to be done by a foreign student,” Dr Eddie Chaobo Fu, of the Confucius Institute, said. “We really felt that it was amazing that a foreign student could draw such a fantastic picture. It is now on show at the Confucius Institute headquarters (Hanban) in Beijing.”

But Fu wanted to do more for the talented DUT student. “Bongani was the first person who came to mind when I was asked to put names forward for the summer school in Shanghai,” he said.

“There is a great faculty of art there and I hope he will be able to use this opportunity to exchange ideas with students and teachers in China.”

Khanyile is one of 15 students from across the African continent who will attend the event, and the first of many students who could benefit from cultural exchanges between Chinese universities and the DUT.

While in China, he will also take part in an exhibition in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province in South-East China, thanks to an invite from the Fujian Agriculture and Forest University (Fafu). His work will form part of a group exhibition that will be staged at a gallery in the city.

Khanyile — who recently showed his work, including a series of 10 ceramic pieces based on miners’ helmets, at the Durban Art Gallery — said he was delighted to have the chance to visit China.

“When you produce a drawing you don’t know what people are going to say, so I was really astonished by the reaction [to the portrait], but also so inspired,” he said.

“This really is a one-off opportunity and I plan to make the most of it. I will be taking some of the works that were at the Durban Art Gallery exhibition and some drawings from this year.

“I am really looking forward to the trip and to seeing other people’s work. I really think it is important to know what other people do.”

To help make his journey easier, Khanyile is learning Mandarin at the Confucius Institute, which he says has been both challenging and enjoyable.

The aim of the Confucius Institute is to offer Mandarin courses to staff and students at DUT, as well to the local business community.

“We are also training local Mandarin teachers and are providing teaching, learning and cultural resources to the greater Durban area through our resource centre,” Fu said.

The institute also serves as an academic, intellectual and cultural bridge between SA and China and promotes strong links between the two countries as well as amongst the culturally diverse communities living in Durban and KZN.

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