Two graduates in their eighties have embodied the words “you are never too old to dream a new dream” after enrolling in postgraduate academic programmes and successfully completing them.
Antoinette Swart (83) has received the degree PhD in Ancient Cultures at the SU Konservatorium in Stellenbosch, while Rosemary Lapping-Sellars (80), received her Master’s in Visual Arts during a virtual ceremony from Stellenbosch University (SU) on Monday.
Swart, who stays in George, expressed that it felt “unreal” to have obtained her PhD at such a grand age, and believes that one should make the most of all opportunities “to the best of your ability”.
“I didn’t really intend to do another degree, but was persuaded to do so by two friends, who are professors at Stellenbosch University. I thought about it and decided, ‘well, why not?’,” she said.
Her PhD studies saw her visiting Persepolis (the ancient ceremonial capital of the Achaemenes Empire) in Iran twice to study the remains of the monuments there. “I have a vivid imagination so I was able to resurrect all the columns that had fallen down,” she adds.
Swart matriculated from Rustenburg High in North West at the age of 16, and always dreamt of studying at Stellenbosch after listening to the stories her father, an ex-Matie, told her as a child.
Prior to that, she achieved the following degrees: 1957 – BSc (Botany and Zoology); 1958 – BSc (Hons) cum laude (Botany); 1960 – MSc (Botany); 2011 – BPhil (Bible Interpretation); and, in 2013 – MPhil cum laude (Bible Interpretation). She also holds two post-graduate diplomas – in library science and higher education – from UNISA.
Asked what is next for her, Swart said she hopes to become a co-author of a few articles with her granddaughter, Elanij Swart, who received her PhD in Biblical archaeology from UNISA a few days before she receives her PhD.
Rosemary Lapping-Sellars Master’s degree came about because of a seminal turning point in her life – when her husband Sean Sellars, Emeritus Professor of Otolaryngology (ENT) at the University of Cape Town (Groote Schuur Hospital), died suddenly in 2019.
“My four children all live overseas and I was, quite simply, compelled to realign the algorithm in my head. Later that year a friend came to visit and said quite bluntly, ‘You have no choice but to rethink your life, go back to study – do your Master’s – it will be marvellous for you’.”
Lapping-Sellars’ MA was, in her own words, “deeply influenced by COVID-19. It has been a creative endeavour to trap the sensation of profound vulnerability in an art medium and to portray sensation in the form of gesture and expression, giving silent voice to such sentiment as a form of language,” she wrote in her introduction.
In a lifetime committed to art and ceramics, Lapping-Sellars obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts and Psychology from the then Natal University, after which she took up a teaching post as head of the ceramic department at the Port Elizabeth Technikon. A year later, she returned to her hometown of Pretoria to open a child art studio. She lived in France for two years and for some time taught art at the NATO base in Fontainebleau. She now lives in Cape Town.
Lapping-Sellars completed a BAFA (Hons) through UNISA in 1985. She worked as the associate editor of the magazine for the Ceramics Association of South Africa and gave lectures, which, she believes, led to a fresh way of looking at fired clay in this country.
In 1983, Lapping-Sellars started the ceramic department at Herschel School and grew it to an operation that had 140 students. She and her husband lived in Ireland for six years, from 1999, where she completed a correspondence course at the Opus School of Textiles, leading to her exhibiting in London with the school in 2004.
On her return to Cape Town in 2006, she opened a multimedia teaching studio for adults, which she ran until 2016.
Asked what is next for her, Lapping-Sellars said, “I will continue to work in my studio and teach and travel and perhaps write a book.”
Congratulations to these graduates on their wonderful achievements!