Mr Adrian Arnott and Mr Louis Olivier with the ‘THINK Table’ and its bronze sculpture
Union High School in Graaff-Reinet recently welcomed a wondrous new addition to its campus. The school is now home to South African sculptor Louis Olivier’s “THINK Table”. The table, which is a limited edition artwork, was donated to the school by the Arnott family, in celebration of the school’s recent Centenary.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Old Unionite Adrian Arnott, the son of the late Herby Arnott who served the school as headmaster from the 1940s to the 1960s, said that the family desired to gift the school with a piece of art that is innovative, while being functional and attractive. A piece that would be around for the next 100 years to provide all with the perfect place to stop and think.
Inspired by Rand Merchant Bank’s advertising platform of ‘thinking that can change the world’, the Arnott family commissioned Johannesburg-based contemporary sculptor, Louis Olivier, to create a ‘THINK Table’.
This ‘THINK Table’ was designed to be a smaller version of the 10-ton concrete RMB ‘THINK Bench’ created by Olivier and his team from the Workhorse Bronze Foundry, that was installed at the University of Pretoria to celebrate and encourage innovative and collaborative thinking.
The bronze sculpture that forms the main focus of the table at Union, spells ‘THINK’ from one side, while another perspective reveals little human silhouettes in different thinking poses. The characters are shown engrossed in various activities: discussing philosophies and world views, relaxing, pondering life, teaching and learning, which acts as a reflective reminder to those learners passing by or sitting around the table, that sometimes one needs to change one’s perspective to think differently.
“In today’s school environment, it’s not just the thought, but the quality and inventiveness of the thinking that counts,” said Arnott. “I’m an avid believer in critical thinking that pushes the boundaries to make a difference in the world and it is our sincerest hope that this piece of art will inspire the learners of Union High School to take ownership of “thinking that can change our world”.
The ‘THINK Table’, which immortalises the importance of critical thinking, together with the freedom to think, is inscribed with the well-known quote by the late Herby Arnott which reads as follows: “It is my fervent prayer that God will continue greatly to bless this school and all who enter it, and may whatsoever things that are pure and lovely and of good report here forever flourish and abound”.
The table was unveiled and presented to the school and its senior learners at a special ceremony held on Tuesday morning, 10 March.
The ceremony was attended by Arnott, his sister, Hillary Botha and the artist Louis Olivier, and saw both Olivier and Arnott address all those who filled the school hall for this auspicious occasion.
During his speech, Arnott reflected on his years at Union, stating that he, along with his siblings, enjoyed a wonderful education at this great school and they are deeply indebted to their teachers, the many parents and people of the town and district for what they learned and for the way they embraced their family.
“I like to believe that our whole extended family up until my children and grandchildren are all beneficiaries of the excellent Union High School education that I, my brother Tony and sisters Hillary and Jenny received,” said Arnott.
He also acknowledged the role of all those who have led the school since 1968, stating that, while his parents might have laid some of the foundations, others, such as the present headmaster William Pringle, have ensured that those values endure.
Olivier then also gave a short speech, during which he spoke about how the table was created and encouraged the learners to follow their dreams.
The table now proudly adorns the foyer of the Union High School hall to be used as a space for staff and young talent to congregate and collaborate through having conversations that matter.
The Union Schools extends its most grateful thanks to the Arnott family and Olivier for this wondrous gift. The table and its sculpture have, in just this past week, brought so many smiles to the learners faces.
This thoughtfully interactive sculpture signified what a school should and what the Union Schools does stand for.
Ideas, knowledge and creativity are not possible without the ability to think. Think is what we are about. Think is everything to us. Without the ability to think we are nothing. The standing and excellence of a school are judged by the level of thinking across the institution. This piece represents an ethos and a way of life at the Union Schools which staff, learners and alumni are all products of.
Union’s ‘THINK Table’ challenges our perceptions and is symbolic of how we shift perspectives by providing our learners with high-quality teaching, learning and exposure to research excellence and community service.
We also challenge our learners to be critical thinkers, to think collaboratively and to apply their knowledge and skills in unique and creative ways that have a positive impact on society.
Union hopes that one day, a new generation of successful alumni will fondly look back and remember conversations at the ‘THINK Table’, recalling how seeing things differently sparked that great idea that helped change the world for the better.