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Registration for the 2018 SAVAH conference is now open!

Registration for the 2018 SAVAH conference is now open! The registration form can be downloaded here (pdf). Please take note of the following:

  • Please transfer the money directly into the conference account or pay via credit card on arrival.
  • Email proof of payment together with the completed registration form to  and copy Ms. Esma Botha  into your email.
  • If you require an invoice, please contact Esma directly.
  • Please register before or on 18 June 2018.
  • The conference takes place in Stellenbosch, 4 – 6 July 2018.
  • For more information on the conference venue, visit the website of the Stellenbosch Insitute for Advanced Study (STIAS):
We look forward to seeing you all in July!

2nd Call for Papers SAVAH Conference 2017: Alternative and Current Visual Discourses in South Africa and the Continent

Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey, October 11, 2013 through March 9, 2014 at the Brooklyn Museum

SAVAH Conference 2017
Hosted by the Department of Fine and Applied Arts,
Faculty of the Arts, Tshwane University of Technology
21 – 23 September 2017

Alternative and Current Visual Discourses in South Africa and the Continent

Please download the call for papers with this link:

2nd_Call for papers 2017 SAVAH Conference

The advent of the post-colonial epoch in Africa during the mid-twentieth century ushered in a wave of revisionist and African-based theoretical prisms of seeing and reading the art of the continent, such as Negritude, Afrocentrism, Black Aesthetics and so on. Since their emergence, these theories or “registers of inquiry” (Taylor 2016) have dominated visual arts praxis as well as scholarly dialogues on the complex and vibrant aesthetics of Africa. Acknowledging their significance and building on these formative re-narrativisations of African artistic practice, the 2017 conference aims to explore more recent visual discourses in Africa, such as, but certainly not limited to, Afropolitanism, Post-Africanism, Post-Afrikanerism, Afro-Indianism, Afrotopianism and Afrofuturism. Paper presentations that engage with fresh and/or re-contextualised historiographies on creative African artefacts, ranging from jewellery to architecture and everything in betwixt, are specifically welcome.

Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey, October 11, 2013 through March 9, 2014 at the Brooklyn Museum

First Call for Papers – SAVAH Conference 2017. Alternative and Current Discourses in South Africa and the Continent.

SAVAH Conference 2017. Alternative and Current Discourses in South Africa and the Continent.

Hosted by the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Faculty of the Arts, Tshwane University of Technology

Click this link to download the PDF: First call for papers 2017 SAVAH conference

Visual Arts and Art History Now: What? How? Why? – Annual Conference 2013 – Proceedings


Please click the link below to access the Conference Proceedings in PDF format:



Culture on Track (Seeing is Believing) – London September 2016

Forecast by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby Design Biennale Ldn 2016 photo by VC Wilkinson

Written by Veronica C Wilkinson.

London as a cultural Mecca did not disappoint this pilgrim on a recent visit to its ever changing skyline and neuron stimulating events.  The newly inaugurated London Design Biennale showcased offerings from 37 countries at Somerset House and the London Festival presented works at other venues around the city featuring work that was uniquely globally specific and often innovative.  The Biennale was themed ‘Utopia by Design’ where a type of material impressionism in terms of style was embodied by Australia’s Brodie Neill with his work entitled ‘Plastic effects’ reflecting  the current global threat of non-biodegradable waste in our oceans.  In the courtyard Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s sensitive kinetic installation described as an abstract meteorological machine inspired by weather-measuring instruments created links through time and between disciplines that emphasized the role of alternative energy for a more sustainable future.


At the Chelsea College of Art opposite the Tate Millbank Gallery I witnessed the final touches to the tulip wood installation ‘Smile’ constructed by Arup and designed by Alison Brooks Architects as one of the London Festival events.  A young Sri Lankan engineer, Ishan Abeysekera shared information and enthusiasm about the fascinating project that will remain on site until the 12th October.


The sheer volume of the crowds in this cosmopolitan city is a challenge that at times becomes a little daunting for the pedestrian navigating past selfie sticks and enthusiastic group excursions but despite the occasional crush it does not match the human sandwiching of people using public transport during rush hour in Tokyo.

An exhibition relying on skillful media manipulation by Edmund Clark at the Imperial War Museum about ‘hidden experiences of state control’ during the global war on terror demonstrated the public’s general insensitivity to brutality and sound as groups of young men  giggled and joked their way through the rooms containing graphic  images and ghastly recordings about the inhuman punishment meted out to prisoners at places at places like Guantanamo Bay.  An unrelated tiny Tibetan peace garden memorial outside the museum provided a small measure of comfort for this visitor in terms of its quiet and unmanipulated dimensions and design.

London’s Guildhall provided treats on its open day when an installation by Rebecca Louise Law suspended from the ceiling reception area  provided visual inspiration.  A new City Garden map  has also recently been designed as an introduction to features of the city well worth visiting.  City surveyor Peter Bennett addressed visitors with an erudite and informative insight into the history and current developments affecting the efficient working of London.  The annual Open House event welcoming members of the public to explore elements of architecture, culture and history  remains a valuable source of information and inspiration thanks to the enthusiasm, generosity and knowledge of its volunteers – many of whom are fulltime employees of the city.

Monet’s irritation with structural colour was brought into focus when I visited Liz West’s exhibition at the Natural History Museum where the wonders of iridescence and angles of light were highlighted through visual displays.

Saatchi Gallery hosted the ‘Start’ art fair from the 15-18 September – a veritable eyeful of new and emerging talent in cubicles and booths occupying three floor levels of space. Here 70 galleries represented their selected talent in what often proved to be culturally relevant practical examples of social insight and documentary value.

London Museum provided a satisfying glimpse into a bygone era with accounts of historical fact and displays that made a free guided tour valuable for an understanding of the city’s history.  An artisanal infrastructure within the city with guilds that monitor productivity and quality continues to this day in many senses.

Switch House at the Tate Modern opposite Saint Paul’s Cathedral does not disappoint with its examples of finely crafted multi-cultural combinations in diverse mediums.  The exploratory nature of a lot of this artwork is inspirational.  As for the 360 degree view of the skyline from the viewing platform on the 10th floor – on a clear day it is rather impressive.  Visiting a place like this is always like popping in to see old friends…

The British Museum featured Maggi Hambling’s ‘Touch’ exhibition, contemporary work in different mediums displaying a range of technical competence.  I found the tender emotional maturity exhibited by her choice of subjects very satisfying.

At the Victoria and Albert Museum celebrating beetles and inspiration from nature takes on more than one form with the first example being the somewhat futuristic ‘Elytra’ glass and carbon fibre construction (filament pavilion) in the courtyard while inside the museum an exhibition ‘Revolution’ (Records and Rebels 1966-1970) celebrates flower power, Afro hairstyles  and nostalgia in leaps through a stylistic era that evokes memories of grooved music tracks on vinyl among others.

But from bell bottoms to Bow Bells cultural exploration takes me to the annual harvest festival of the Cockney ‘Pearly’ Kings and Queens at the Guildhall Yard who continue a 19th century tradition with Maypole and Morris dancing, miniature carts drawn by Newfoundland dogs and enthusiasm and pride reflected by the splendid outfits worn by participants.

Perhaps the pride taken in material accomplishment has given visitors to London an example of a cosmopolitan and inclusive heritage worth emulating for spiritual growth in time to come.

SAVAH Conference 2016 Registration


Please download the form here: SAVAH Conference 2016 Registration Form

You can fill it in electronically and email it. Like magic!

Call For Papers – SAVAH Conference 2016



28-31 July 2016, Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture, University of Johannesburg


Organising committee:  Prof Federico Freschi (SAVAH President), Prof Karen von Veh (SAVAH President ex-officio), Prof Brenda Schmahmann (South African Research Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture, University of Johannesburg), Prof Judy Peter (University of Johannesburg), Landi Raubenheimer (SAVAH Secretary).


Confirmed keynote speaker: Prof Steven Nelson, Director, African Studies Center, UCLA, Los Angeles


The 31st annual conference of the South African Visual Arts Historians (SAVAH) will take place at the University of Johannesburg on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 July 2015. It will commence with a welcoming event on the evening of Thursday 28 July and end with tours on the morning of Sunday 31 July.

Rethinking Art History and Visual Culture in a Contemporary Context


The “Rhodes Must Fall” and “Fees Must Fall” campaigns which arose in South Africa in the course of 2015, while focused on transformative agendas in a broad sense, also emphasised how various inheritances from the West have played a fundamental role in shaping universities – not only in terms of their curricula but also their institutional cultures more generally. Occurring in a context where the humanities are under threat and where neoliberal forces may upset what we understand as fundamental to the academic project, these recent calls for critical engagement with institutional histories and practices suggest that reconsideration of disciplinary knowledges and understandings have become increasingly urgent.


In this conference we seek to take stock of what we do in art history (and related areas of exploration) in light of new calls for transformation and relevance. Some of the questions this might involve are the following:

  • What do we understand by an imperative to “decolonise” the university and/or our discipline/s, and are such agendas feasible and productive?
  • What kinds of topics, themes and areas of exploration are relevant to art history and visual culture studies in South Africa in the 21st century?
  • How have calls for transformation within the academy had a bearing on the perspectives we might adopt to understand art, architecture and visual culture – whether contemporary or historical – from outside the academy?
  • How might a politics of race and anti-imperialism inform not only what we explore but also how we go about the practices of research? In this regard, are there theorists whose work we ought to consider more than we do, and are there different methodologies we ought to employ?
  • If resistance associated with the Rhodes Must Fall campaign focused primarily on a politics of race, should equal attention not also be directed at the implications of gender or class on visual representation?
  • What might be the role of community engagement initiatives within the academic project?
  • How might a decolonising impetus as well as a drive towards promoting inclusivity affect not only curricula but also educational practices?
  • How might such transformative agendas affect curatorial initiatives, public art or the collecting of art?
  • To what extent have other kinds of changes in recent years – such as developments within the digital domain – offered new opportunities to facilitate such critical engagement with art historical practices?


We invite presentations of 20 minutes that focus on particular examples or case studies that can contribute towards addressing the above questions or indeed any others which have a bearing on art history’s relevance and changing roles within the present.


Please send a title of your proposed paper, an abstract of between 300 and 400 words as well as your affiliation and contact details to by 15 February 2016. Please write the words “SAVAH conference proposal” in the subject line of your e-mail.



Postgraduate Scholarships: South African Art and Visual Culture



NRF Research Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture
University of Johannesburg

The Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg invites applications for postgraduate scholarships from those seeking to be part of a dynamic research programme that is specifically focused on South African art and visual culture. The research envisaged by applicants should be on South African themes (or topics pertinent to South Africa) which fall broadly within at least one of the following three rubrics:

1.  Gender and visual culture
2.  Public art
3.  Art and design in the context of community projects

Scholarships are available to graduates with demonstrable capacities and qualifications in Art History, Visual Art or cognate disciplines.

Study at the PhD level must be thesis-based. Scholarships are worth a minimum of R 100 000 per annum and are available for three years of full-time study.

Degrees at the Master’s level may be either entirely dissertation-based or include a studio or practice-based component. Scholarships are worth a minimum of R 70 000 per annum and are available for two years of full-time study.

Scholarships worth R 40 000 will be awarded to candidates with research ability studying full-time for Honours degrees. A recipient may register in any of the departments in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture but will be required to produce his/her research essay on a topic fitting within the above rubrics.

Citizenship is not restricted.

Closing date for applications is November 20 2015.

For an application form or further information, please contact:

Prof Brenda Schmahmann
NRF Research Chair of South African Art and Visual Culture
University of Johannesburg

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, South African Art and Visual Culture. University of Johannesburg, NRF Research Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture


University of Johannesburg, NRF Research Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture
Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, South African Art and Visual Culture

Institution Type:    College / University
Location:    South Africa
Position:    Post-Doctoral Fellow
The Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg invites applications for postdoctoral research fellowships from those seeking to be part of a dynamic research programme that is specifically focused on South African art and visual culture. The research envisaged by applicants should be on South African themes (or topics pertinent to South Africa) which fall broadly within at least one of the following three rubrics:
1.  Gender and visual culture
2.  Public art
3.  Art and design in the context of community projects

Candidates must be available for full-time research at the University of Johannesburg for between one and three years.

Candidates must have obtained their doctoral degrees within the last five years. Should the doctoral degree certificate not be available yet, a formal letter from the previous university confirming completion of a doctoral degree will be required.

Fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis, and along with considering the applicant’s academic achievements and the value of the envisaged research, particular focus is placed on his/her publication record.
In addition to his/her research, a postdoctoral fellow is required to undertake work which benefits the centre and the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture. Such work might involve providing research guidance to MA, MTech or Honours students, organising and conducting reading groups or assisting with academic writing, for example.

Citizenship is not restricted.
Fellowships are worth ZAR 200 000 per annum. As the fellowship is principally to enable a PDRF to focus on research, the fellowship holder may not hold full-time salaried employment concurrently with tenure of fellowship, but he/she will be allowed to undertake up to 12 hours per week of additional (salaried) work.
Closing date for applications is November 20 2015.

For an application form or further information, please contact:
Prof Brenda Schmahmann
NRF Research Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture
University of Johannesburg


SAVAH 3 Marc Quinn Frozen Waves Broken Sublimes Edmond J

London – September 2015 – Inspiring Creativity and Culture.

Veronica C. Wilkinson.

The sight of Sir Joshua Reynold’s statue from one angle seemed to play among the treetops of Ai Weiwei’s Ironwood tree installation in the courtyard of the Royal Academy Galleries conjuring up thoughts of Bachelard’s Poetics of Space and other flights of imagination when I visited the retrospective exhibition in London in September. This exhibition spans disciplines and communicates effectively with the slick punch I have learned to expect from an artist of Weiwei’s status.  There is an interesting symbiosis inherent in his conflict with Chinese government authorities and their role in constraints enforced on his travel and multifaceted status and practice as a human rights activist.  His role facilitating artisanal work that promotes traditional skill and craft serves to underline the necessity of practical economic intervention to emphasize effective artistic communication in visual signals that transcend language and prejudice. His public support on a practical level is evidenced by crowd funded facets of his endeavours.  The exhibition has received mixed reactions from critics with perspectives and impressions as diverse as those of Matthew Collings and Adrian Searle.


My notes from a recent brief visit to London share my impressions from well-publicized exhibitions and events that transmitted respect for historical tradition and cutting edge cosmopolitan, innovative design.  One inspiration on many levels was at Somerset House with an exhibition that runs until 21st October by Marc Quinn of five larger than life steel shells.  Quinn has cleverly incorporated his ideas about the role of the Thames as transport and drainage for the city to its links to the sea – themes that include trade and maritime history, ecological and architectural elements and the history of the monarchy and their choice of designers and influences.  This year’s London Design Festival saw the West wing as a venue to 10 rooms of innovative design and the five floor cantilevered Stamp Stairs of Somerset House’s South Wing a site for Studio Ini’s light installation ‘Spine’.  The South Wing information desk can provide information about tours and exhibitions should one wish to combine a visit to the Courtauld Galleries with further exploration.

The V&A exhibited a small but personally relevant photographic exhibition by Captain Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902), dating from1852-1860.  His photographs of southern India and Burma while stationed there are a credit to his discipline as a trained surveyor and talented photographer.  Intended as part of the India exhibition, I was lucky to see these archival images on display before the main India exhibition commenced this month.  Images of the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai, Southern India (before the graffiti which had been added to some of its columns by the time I visited the sacred Hindu pilgrimage site from the port of Tuticorin in 1993) were comforting as were many of the sacred sites and landmarks  I recognized from my travels in Myanmar. (Formerly Burma.)


Simon Schama’s ‘Face of Britain’ exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery feature five themes that co-incide with a five-part series on the subject broadcast on the BBC.  The BP Portrait Awards included Paul Emsley’s (controversial in some circles) first portrait of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.  My tastes prefer more mature features and the painterly skill employed in Irina Karkabi’s ‘Abu Muhammad:Portrait of a Palestinian Worker’ that I found appealing in a gritty, realistic way.

At the British Museum another small but exquisitely documented exhibition where one could not be jolted by the latter day ‘concentration elsewhere’ proles plugged into audio-guides (mentioned on page 92 of HUObrist’s ‘Everything you always wanted to know about Curating*2011) A space away from the ubiquitous cellphone photographers that infest public spaces these days proved a blessing  in an age when people seem to be increasingly desensitized, seduced by every new trick of technology.

Accessibility to culture in London does not cost much.  Free tours of the Royal Academy take place regularly and one I joined included an erudite insight into the sketchbooks and work of architect *Chris Wilkinson’s ‘Thinking Through Drawing‘ exhbition by Kate Goodwin, curator and head of architecture at the Royal Academy.  (*Until 14th February 2016.)

I had not anticipated the London Open House events this year that I stumbled upon after a visit to the Japan Matsuri (festival) in Trafalgar Square where I made my squiggles/marks to participate in the Manga Wall project. (The finished wall can be seen on Youtube.)  Inigo Jones’ Palladian style Banqueting house with its canvas panels painted by Rubens on the ceiling and insights into history was open to the public as I made my way along Whitehall.  A visit to the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices parallel to Downing Street followed where strict security measures were enforced.  The architect George Gilbert Scott appointed in 1858 saw the Foreign Office as “a kind of national palace or drawing room for the nation”; the building’s design, murals, furnishing  and sculpture are well worth  visit.  The Durbar Court built in 1866 by architect M.D. Wyatt is regarded by many as a masterpiece with tiles in the Persian style typical of much of Mughal India. Knowledgable, articulate and friendly volunteer participants in the Open House project provided insights into the history of the functional buildings that have endured over centuries, even providing examples of the Portland stone currently gracing the façade of the Banqueting house.

The following day I joined the queue outside the Houses of Parliament (designed by Victorian architect Charles Barry who collaborated with Augustus Welby Pugin on the final Gothic design) after crossing Westminster Bridge on foot as I did on many days.  Construction started in 1840 but was only completed thirty years later.  Also part of the Open Day programme, visitors were free to explore Westminster Hall with its colourful banner exhibition commemorating an 800 year history since the sealing of the Magna Carta.(‘The Beginnings of that Freedom’  runs until November 2015.)  A fascinating talk by horologist Paul Roberson introduced the world famous clock nicknamed Big Ben (the Elizabeth Tower) including the history and maintenance of the clocks.   Other colourful characters included an actress impersonating women’s rights activist Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and larger than life puppets representing the eight Magna Carta giants of Liberty created by Surrey schoolchildren in 2014.

Notable among the exhibitions I visited this year was the Peter Kennard, Unofficial War Artist retrospective, a display of work in photomontage and other mediums at the Imperial War Museum. Not a show for people who want to escape reality. With series themes like the ‘Stop’ series begun in 1968 to the ‘Decoration’ (2003-4) series reflecting the Invasion of Iraq Kennard’s unrelenting visual documentation of his artistic response to global inhumanity is sobering. In June 2015 Krystyna Sierbien wrote the following words about Kennard in Aesthetica magazine “His work and unwavering adherence to pacificism is more important now than ever.”   The exhibition opened in May 2015 and will run for one year.