women in art
Cassandra Twala

Women have always been involved in forms of artistic expression. As curators, collectors, auctioneers, historians and academics, they play an important role in shaping ways in which we think about and experience the arts, both within and outside of traditional institutions. 

We invited these 13 visionary South African women in art to step in front of the lens:

Gaining Sathekge

women in art
Gaining Sathekge

Sathekge is the Exhibitions & Events Curator at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, and is responsible for raising funds, forming and managing relationships with key stakeholders in the creative industry and forming partnerships for events, including the popular youth month festival Basha Uhuru. ‘Transforming a monumental historical site into a space that allows the contemporary voice of young people to take ownership of history and reinterpret their own narratives through the arts and dialogue is one of my key objectives,’ she says. ‘[I try] to decolonise sites of memory by deconstructing the walls of heritage and using those bricks to craft more meaningful stories that are relevant to today.’

Chumisa Ndakisa

women in art
Chumisa Ndakisa

Ndakisa is an independent curator whose first exhibition, Atomic Peace, showed at Bag Factory Artists’ Studios in Johannesburg. It was a very memorable project for her personally, and spoke about the meeting of spiritual unrest and mental disorder. As a curator, Ndakisa interprets different mediums of art to create interventions related to ideas and subjects she deems important – one of them being collective healing. Research is an integral part of succeeding in these objectives. ‘As a person who’s not necessarily talkative, I use my curatorial work to express my thoughts and contribute to a greater conversation,’ she says. mushroomhour.com

Dr Same Mdluli

women in art
Dr Same Mdluli

Mdluli is an artist, arts writer and historian who’s also the current manager of the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg. Her work entails curating exhibitions that talk about our past, present and future. She’s now designing a gallery programme for 2019 and a book that documents the work of black South African artists. ‘One of my greatest professional achievements is obtaining a PhD in the history of art,’ she says. ‘To date, there are only two black women in the country with this qualification – myself and Dr Nomusa Makhubu of the University of Cape Town.’

Susie Goodman

women in art
Susie Goodman

Goodman is the executive director of art auctioneers Strauss & Co and is the head of client advisory in the company’s Johannesburg office. She trained as an auctioneer in London and thrives on the adrenaline rush of the live auctions where artworks by major international and South African artists go under her hammer. One of her greatest professional achievements was being awarded the Ampersand Fellowship in 2018 and spending the month in New York visiting exhibitions and networking with clients and art world professionals. ‘I do what I do because I’m passionate about people, the art world and South Africa,’ she says. ‘I find my work environment both stimulating and invigorating. There’s never a dull day.’

Kabelo Malatsie

women in art
Kabelo Malatsie

Malatsie, the director of the Visual Arts Network of South Africa, recently produced a publication titled Matšatši a and curated Sabelo Mlangeni’s photographic exhibition, Umlindelo wamaKholwa (Night Vigil of the Believers), at Wits Art Museum in Johannesburg. She’s also working as the editorial co-ordinator for Igshaan Adams’ Standard Bank Young Artist Award catalogue and curating this year’s FNB Joburg Art Fair’s talk programme. ‘Contemporary art is still considered a hobby even by those who are in the arts because basic working conditions don’t exist and artists are expected to work for exposure without anyone considering how you even make it to this space,’ she says. ‘This realisation made me want to work on structural issues so that practitioners aren’t bullied into working without basic conditions.’

Cate Terblanche

women in art
Cate Terblanche

Terblanche is the curator of the Sasol Art Collection. Her job focuses on the conservation and promotion of the collection and she’s also involved in initiatives such as the Sasol New Signatures competition. As a teacher at a tertiary level, Terblanche finds it important to share skills and knowledge, and to give back to a community that’s provided her with many opportunities. ‘I love being able to work so closely with historical artifacts,’ she says. ‘Many of the works in the collection aren’t often displayed or seen by anyone outside Sasol, and I get to explore them in a way few people do. It’s like a treasure hunt: finding a message scribbled on the back of a work or noticing a detail not seen on photographs in catalogues is priceless.’

Kholeka Shange

women in art
Kholeka Shange

Shange is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in History of Art at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Inspired by her great-grandmother uMntwana uNosulumane kaDinuzulu (Princess Nosulumane kaDinuzulu) and her great-aunt uMntwana uMagogo kaDinuzulu (Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu), her PhD research is concerned with re-reading photographic representations of uMntwana uMagogo kaDinuzulu as a way of finding new information about how she is understood historically and in contemporary times. ‘I do this archival work mostly for my family,’ she says. ‘Both uMntwana uNosulumane kaDinuzulu (who raised me) and uMntwana uMagogo kaDinuzulu are giants in my lineage. For me, thinking and writing about them is a way of figuring out who I am and what I can learn from them as incredible women that came before me.’

Cassandra Twala

women in art
Cassandra Twala

Twala is a design fair curator for Artlogic, which produces the Nirox Sculpture Fair, the FNB Joburg Art Fair and the Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair – spaces that build platforms for artists and artisans to engage with people, craft stories about African creativity and support the design space. ‘I’m particularly excited about the inclusion of five new African artisans in this year’s Handmade Contemporary Fair, which speaks volumes about the importance of providing platforms that enable Africans to collaborate with one another in creating wealth on the continent,’ she says.

Londi Modiko

women in art
Londi Modiko

Modiko is an independent curator, art advisor and the founder of An Art Agency, and previously acted as co-director of WHATIFTHEWORLD gallery in Johannesburg. Through her work, she aims to expand the discourse surrounding contemporary African art. Her interests lie mainly in the patronage of art through commercial exchange, while her long-term goal is to democratise access to art through innovative exhibition platforms. ‘I regard being unapologetically myself as a personal achievement,’ she says. ‘This has also played a part in my carving out a career in a small, elitist, complex industry.’

Naadira Patel

women in art
Naadira Patel

Patel is an artist, a lecturer and the founder of StudioStudio, which aims to consolidate art, research, design and project management. The framework of the business ranges from exploring the value of design in social justice organisations to working with young artists in conceptualising exhibitions and publications of their own work. ‘My work as a designer is integral to thinking about the role of an artist in society today,’ she says. ‘In my practice, I push a rethinking of distinctions or narrow categorisations of “creative labour” to include reassessments of the roles that design, activism and research can play in developing smart and motivated modes of communicating complex ideas to a range of audiences.’

Kwanele Kunene

women in art
Kwanele Kunene

Kunene is the founder of CREATIVE GHETTOS, a platform that aims to celebrate creative spaces in Africa. Through her weekly podcast, she interviews some of the most brilliant minds in art, architecture, interior design, literature and other fields, and would like to see the platform grow into a go-to resource for people wanting to learn about Africa’s contribution to exciting creative sectors. While a number of the industries she focuses on seem exclusive or unattainable to many, she’s building a bridge towards each one and breaking down high walls. ‘Africans have already begun falling deeply in love with their own creations, and the rest of the world is watching and interacting with enthusiasm,’ she says. ‘I just want to be part of this mental and physical shift as best I can.’

Glynis Hyslop

women in art
Glynis Hyslop

Hyslop is the managing director of the Forum Company, a venue and event company based in Johannesburg with a belief that the art in its venues enhances its clients’ positivity and creativity. She’s also the founder of the RMB Turbine Art Fair. Now in its sixth year, the fair brings together a number of up-and-coming and established artists to sell works in an iconic part of the city. ‘We wanted to have an art fair that was inclusive and approachable,’ she says. ‘We enjoy it as much as the incredibly diverse audience it attracts.’

Levinia Jones

women in art
Levinia Jones

Jones is the Head of Arts: Southern Africa at the British Council. In her role, she leads a team in several countries on the continent as they work with artists, producers, managers, enablers and audiences, connecting them and brokering ways to share and create together, both here and in the UK. ‘My greatest achievement is being part of new African and UK stories, the ones told and shaped by young (18–35 year olds) people through art,’ she says. ‘This narrative is driven by contemporary ideas and passionate people– being part of it in a small way is extraordinary. It’s not what art is that excites me, it’s what it can do.’

Text and production: Ntombenhle Shezi Photographs: Tarryn Hatchett Styling: Sitha Kentane Location: Johannesburg Art Gallery Make-up: Caroline Greeff, Luther Galloway Interns: Michelle Jali, Refilwe Nkaunyane

Read The local creatives under 25 we’re keeping our eye on5 Minutes with Artist Greatjoy Ndlovu and Report-Back: 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair next.