We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Institute of Advanced Study

South African sculptor chooses Durham for first exhibition outside London

(9 February 2009)

Image: Bom boys (detail). 1998. Photo by Roger Woolridge. © Jane Alexander.

An exhibition of sculptures by internationally acclaimed South African artist, Jane Alexander, is taking place in the Galilee Chapel of Durham Cathedral from 3 March until 22 March 2009.

Durham University, with the support of Durham Cathedral and sponsors that include the Northern Rock Foundation, Santander Bank, and the North American Foundation for Durham University, proudly presents an exhibition “On Being Human”

The exhibition – Jane Alexander’s first ever in the UK outside London - is part of Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study’s year-long examination of what it means to be human in the 21st Century.

The installation has been put together especially for Durham Cathedral. The central component of the exhibition is the ‘Bom Boys’, nine small boy figures in masks or face coverings that make reference to the displaced boys who live on the streets of Cape Town, where the artist lives.

Complex, multifaceted and intriguing, the tableau can be understood as suggesting not only the vulnerability of abandoned children but also their resilience and their struggle to build a dignified and respected life. The exhibition also includes a series of individual figures that the artist has produced in the last 10 years. Combined with the ‘Bom Boys’, they alert us to the fragility of our social, cultural and moral constructs.

Professor Ash Amin, Executive Director of the Institute of Advanced Study, said: “Jane’s work has been exhibited all over the world, to international acclaim, but this is the first time she has exhibited in the UK outside London, so it is a very special moment for Durham, a celebration of the Cathedral’s outreach, and a tribute to the international scope of the IAS that we have secured this fascinating exhibition”

The Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham, said, “We hope that by installing the exhibition in the Cathedral there can be a fruitful encounter between Alexander's depiction of the human condition and the Christian tradition with its insights about the possibility of renewal and hope for humanity.”

This unique exhibition is open to the public from Tuesday 3 March 2009 until Sunday 22 March 2009. A round-table public debate on the subject of ”Being Human – who cares?” is being held at Durham Town Hall, on Tuesday, 3 March, at 5.30pm to mark the start of the exhibition. Led by a panel of distinguished international scholars, the debate will focus on the human/animal boundary: its meanings, importance and value for human relations.

It will ask what lies at the core of ‘being human’ and whether these qualities distance people from animals, or whether they draw all living things together. In particular the debate will ask where care, and caring, figures in human life: Can people care, do they care, should they care; and how far does an ethic of care extend?

Entry to the exhibition and the round-table discussion is free.

For further information contact Catherine Paine on telephone 0191 334 4686, email:, or visit:

An exhibition catalogue will be available for purchase (£5.00) at the Cathedral.

The Cathedral will be running a Lent course on the theme 'Being Human' beginning on Thursday 5th March. Further details are available from the Cathedral or on the web site