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14 May 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Tsepo Moeketsi
Prof Ashafa
Prof Ashafa’s research documents plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments.

The Phytomedicine and Phytopharmacology Research Programme (PPRP) in the Department of Plant Sciences on the Qwaqwa Campus researches the biological effects of medicinal plants used in the folkloric medicine of the Eastern Free State, particularly to explore the values and contribution of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) towards broader scientific research. This is according to the programme’s principal investigator and researcher, NRF C2-rated researcher, Professor Anofi Ashafa. 

 “Our research is mainly aimed at documenting plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments and to further discover, isolate, and purify active phytoconstituents that are responsible for disease curation or amelioration, thereby assisting in the global promotion of accessible and affordable medication in developing countries,” said Prof Ashafa. 

Since 2012, the PPRP has worked extensively on Basotho medicinal plants (BMP) used as antimicrobials, antioxidants, antidiabetics, antitubercular, anticancer, anthelmintic, and antidiarrheal agents, starting from biological activities up to the  evaluation of the toxicity of these plants for the kidney, liver, and heart functions in order to establish safe dosage parameters. These activities have led to the discovery of four potent antidiabetic biomolecules that are awaiting the processes of patency and commercialisation. Additional outputs include 104 published peer-reviewed articles , 7 postdoctoral fellows, 6 PhDs, 9 master’s, and 16 honours graduates. 

“Our research informs teaching and the development of expertise in ethnobotany, 
phytomedicine, and phytopharmacology in order to contribute to the National Development Plan (NDP) through human capacity development, skills, and knowledge transfer.

The group is also investigating some medicinal plants on the endangered red list of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), through micropropagation and field trials as well as proposing conservation strategies to preserve these valuable species.

The PPRP consists of postdoctoral fellows, PhD, master’s, and honours students and research is done in collaboration with several local and international universities as well as the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. 


News Archive

UFS arts are experiencing a boom
2013-09-03

 
Dot Vermeulen
3 September 2013

The arts at the University of the Free State are experiencing a boom, with several Kovsie artists achieving on a national platform. Dot Vermeulen, a junior lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts, is the latest UFS artist to be honoured nationally as the winner of the 2013 Sasol New Signatures art award. 

The award is rewarding emerging young artists. The winning entry, entitled “Desperately disciplined,” by Vermeulen, who is currently studying toward her master’s degree in Visual Arts, was chosen from approximately 400 entries. 

Earlier this year, Pauline Gutter, a former Kovsie, won the Absa L’Atelier competition, which is South Africa’s most prestigious art competition. The year before, another former student from our Department of Fine Arts, Elrie Joubert, won the competition. 

Vermeulen says there are brilliant people at the UFS who are active in visual arts at various levels. "People such as Janine Allen-Spies (lecturer in painting) and Angela de Jesus (curator of the Stegmann gallery) are not only good artists, they are also involved with the community and invest a great deal of energy into the development of young artists. From my own experience, I can say that I have benefited a lot from academic scholarships from the UFS in the course of my study career." 

She says her winning entry refers to the relationship between traditional tactile painting and contemporary digital media. "The focus is especially on hidden moments of absorption and correspondence during the art-making process. The painting installation depicts a reading nude figure on a couch. A computer screen is mounted on a stand in front of the painting, animating the same image, while at the same time blocking the view of the painting. In the animation, the nude figure pages through her book from time to time, with the paint and digital drawing marks moving around her. The text “Envoi is typing…” is also animated on the surface of the couch repeatedly. It is suggestive of internet chat boxes, which often pop up on the screen while I am working on my laptop." 

As winner of the Sasol New Signatures art award, Vermeulen won R60 000 and the opportunity of a solo art exhibition in the Pretoria Art Museum. 

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