‘Imposter’ graduates with full suite of distinctions
12 Apr 2019 - 10:15
Despite 50 surgical procedures, burn wounds to 95% of her body and being given only a 20% chance of survival after a gas explosion 15 years ago, Aniek Nieuwenhuis has defied the odds and will join hundreds of University of Cape Town (UCT) graduates as they are capped this month.
Nieuwenhuis, a fine art student at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in the Faculty of Humanities, majored in photography in her final year. She based her final thesis on art therapy, which she explained focuses on art as a therapeutic process, unpacking exactly how it helps survivors make sense of a traumatic event.
Nieuwenhuis will graduate with a full suite of distinctions for her academic programme. This includes distinctions for Studio Work, Art History and Discourse of Art, Theory of Art and Fine Art 4. Her outstanding performance makes her the first student in that department to secure this academic achievement.
But her road to university was lined with obstacles. The events leading to the March 2004 accident are etched in her memory; what was meant to be a fun family getaway to a mountainside cabin in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve near Gordon’s Bay turned to tragedy when a faulty connection on a gas cylinder caused a gas leak that led to an explosion. The blaze left Nieuwenhuis and her father Paul with severe burn wounds.
“When I eventually got to hospital, I had suffered third-degree burns to 95% of my body – 85% to my body’s surface and 10% was internal. I spent five months in Red Cross [War Memorial] Children’s Hospital,” she said.