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Artist cop gets his doctorate in education

Siphe Potelwa, an Eastern Cape forensic services policeman at his PhD graduation ceremony.
Siphe Potelwa, an Eastern Cape forensic services policeman at his PhD graduation ceremony.

Siphe Potelwa is a cop with a difference. He’s a fine artist, a teacher, and can now put the title doctor before his name after graduating with a PhD in education from the University of Fort Hare.

At the same time as doing his doctoral research, the 38-year-old police identikit artist completed two other courses at higher learning institutions.

He laughs at the notion that the SAPS seems an unlikely home for intellectuals.

''The SAPS is a good organisation for growth with high opportunities. The impression outside [from the community] is that the police are uneducated ...  I enjoy serving the community with respect and dignity,'' he said.

His doctoral research looked at visual art education of adult offenders in an Eastern Cape correction centre..

"I am very excited to be the first ‘philosopher’ in my family,” he said.

In May 2015, DispatchLIVE ran a story about his exhibition — his final-year project for his master’s degree in art — at the Ann Bryant Art Gallery in East London.

It was 150 little wooden coffins, a work critiquing the extravagance associated with the burial practices of modern Xhosa people.

Potelwa joined the police service a student constable in January 2006 but resigned after a year and became an art teacher at Mdumazulu Junior Secondary School in Ngqeleni.

He rejoined SAPS in January 2011 as a forensic analyst. 

He now works as a facial identification expert at the provincial SAPS forensics department in Zwelitsha.

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