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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

Penny Siopis recipient of the prestigious Helgaard Steyn Award
2015-12-15

Vanya Terblance (ABSA Trust representative) hands over the award to Penny Siopis
Photo: Valentino Ndaba

On Friday 4 December 2015, Penny Siopis, the well-known Cape Town-based artist, who has been exhibiting her work locally and internationally since 1975, was presented with the 2015 Helgaard Steyn Award and a prize of R 550 000 for her painting entitled Swarm.

A quadrennial award lunch was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) Johannes Stegman Gallery in conjunction with the Helgaard Steyn and ABSA Trusts. The Helgaard Steyn Trust was established by the estate of Dr Jan Steyn and was named after his father and his brother who was the last president of the Orange Free State Republic.

Swarm, a 2011 painting using ink and glue on canvas, depicts a swarm of bees in a complex, dynamic, and intense manner. It earned the prestigious award that is dedicated to the promotion of artistic culture based on the adjudicators’ unanimous decision. Angela de Jesus, curator of the Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery at the UFS, Annali Dempsey of the University of Johannesburg Gallery, and Prof John Botha, Associate Professor in Art History at North West University, made up the 2015 panel of judges.

On receiving the award, Siopis thanked the Steyn family, the judges, and the people who nominated her. “I am struck by how fantastic it feels to be acknowledged. It is extraordinary when people are struck by what was your own world and the intensity buzzing in your head.”

According to Prof Botha, “Naturally the work of art is chosen on grounds of artistic merit and in the context of contemporary values with regards to both form and content.”

The award-winning painter studied Fine Arts at Rhodes University and Portsmouth University in United Kingdom. Apart from lecturing Fine Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand, she is an honorary professor at University of Cape Town Michaelis School of Fine Art. She has also taught at the Natal Technicon in Durban.

Siopis has received numerous awards for her work, including a British Council Scholarship, a Merit Award at the 2nd Cape Town Triennial, and the Atelier Award for a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, in addition to the Alexander S Onassis fellowship for research in Greece.

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