“Research is fun, this is how it should be approached,” says new Arts Research Prof

by Gerrit Bester

19 May 2022

Prof Chats Devroop, newly appointed Research Professor at the Faculty of Arts and Design, is no stranger to TUT, as he has worked in the Music programme, among others as HoD, for several years before pursuing his academic career at other academic institutions for a couple of years. Speaking about his new role, he says “it feels wonderful to be back at TUT and I look forward to my new portfolio, which I believe is much needed at the Faculty.”

Prof Chats Devroop, newly appointed Research Professor at the Faculty of Arts and Design. 

Prof Devroop, who assumed duty on 1 May, says his first priority in his new post is to get a sense of the Faculty and its research profile as well as needs. “I hope to get this sense by interviews across the Faculty in establishing what are the strengths and challenges that need to be addressed.” 

He adds that, although he cannot comment on the Faculty’s standing in terms of scholarly output at this early stage, by drawing from inferences from Arts faculties across the country, he can confidently say that its research output aligns similarly to that of other institutions. 

Prof Devroop brings to the Faculty a wealth of research experience and, he says, he is passionate about arts-based and practice-led research. “It’s here that I hope to make my biggest input. My research interests are in the arts, technology, diaspora studies, and transformation of higher education.”

As an accomplished musician, much of Prof Devroop’s musical activity involvement is through performance. A notable engagement was with the Cape Town Jazz Big Band (Abdullah Ibrahim Project). Asked about this passion, he says that music is his first love, and will remain so. 

I’m born into a family of musicians and have travelled quite a journey, both nationally and internationally. It’s this experience that remains fulfilling to me. I’m a firm believer that arts can change the world. So, you can rest assured that you will still see me at the concert and the gig stage. South Africa has some of the richest music traditions in the world, and I believe that there should be greater dialogue between us to highlight our rich cultural history.”  

Undertaking research on top of your academic responsibilities is often tough for academics. How would he encourage colleagues to pursue research?

“It’s here that I draw on my own trajectory. I too had to find elbow room for research within the higher education artistic space. Research should not be projected or made out as something ‘foreign’ to artists. By making research attractive, and examining closely our practice, a lot of myths about research can be dispelled. Research is fun and this is how it should be approached and seen,” he stresses. 

How do research and artistic output aid the Faculty’s reputation in the higher education sector? Prof Devroop explains that the notion of artistic output is relatively new to higher education arts practitioners nationally and that one, therefore, first needs to understand what is meant by creative research output which, in his view, is not the same as a creative output. 

“Herein lies one of the challenges by making clear what the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) means by artistic research. In terms of aiding the Faculty’s reputation, it is clear that TUT has made enormous contributions in this area (artistic output). What now needs to happen is to translate our artistic contributions into the research language and outputs required for productivity recognition.” 

Prof Devroop also has some sound advice for postgraduate students. “Research is a marathon, not a sprint,” he says. “Do not be fooled into thinking that there are quick fixes or shortcuts, sadly there are none. The more you engage with research, the more intellectual stimulation you will have. Make a point to read something each day and write at every opportunity. Repeated practice will help you master the skills required for undertaking research.” 

In conclusion, Prof Devroop says he looks forward to his task ahead and would like to thank the Faculty of Arts and Design for recognising this much needed portfolio. “I also look forward to engaging with the wider University community in making TUT’s Faculty of Arts and Design one of the research leaders in South Africa. TUT has excellent personnel and we should now explore collaborating with each other for greater inter-, trans- and cross-disciplinary work.”

Prof Devroop can be contacted at devroopc@tut.ac.za.

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