A deep expertise in art history makes Candice Thikeson (25) a sought-after woman in the arts world.
She has opened a number of exhibitions for internationally acclaimed artists such as Wilma Cruise and Mohau Modisakeng, and frequently advises museums on their artistic content.
She’s a full-time lecturer at the University of the Free State’s department of art history and image studies, and is the first black woman to be employed in that department. She serves on the Fractal Contemporary Arts Forum, which works with Oliewenhuis Art Museum and the National Museum in Bloemfontein to support upcoming artists and small businesses through various events and projects. She’s also a member of the Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery’s advisory committee, influencing the management of the gallery and its new art acquisitions.
Another role sees her judging the Phatshoane Henney New Breed Art Competition run by Phatshoane Henney Attorneys. The competition aims to uncover talented artists in the Free State and provides broad exposure to showcase contemporary art from the province, she says.
At one stage Thikeson was planning to be an artist herself, as she enrolled for a degree in fine arts. “My love for reading art history and philosophy books soon outweighed my desire to become a painter. I also realised that there were very few art historians in South Africa, and I knew I could make a great contribution to the field,” she says.
She gained an honours degree in art history and visual culture studies, completing part of her studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
“I spent much of my student years tutoring other students, working in the Willem Boshoff and Visual Archive, and working as an academic writing consultant at the Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of the Free State,” she says.
Her research has earned her scholarships including the Innovation Masters Scholarship from the National Research Foundation, the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship from the Mandela Rhodes Foundation and the Abe Bailey Travel Bursary, which sends South Africans committed to community service on educational and cultural tours of the UK.
She is working towards a master’s degree with her research centred on the artists Zanele Muholi, Berni Searle, Penny Siopis and Diane Victor, focusing on how their fascination with staining processes makes comments on the everyday experiences of South African women.
— Lesley Stones