Research & Community Engagement

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FADA Research Publications:

Postgraduate Studies

The Department of Visual Art is involved in a range of research fields and activities that have great relevance for living in South Africa’s complex, contemporary visual-culture and as part of the Global South. The staff of the Department are recognised experts and leaders in their research fields.

What makes the Department’s Masters Research strategy so compelling in South African tertiary institutions, however, is its potential to be undertaken across one of four research modes or paradigms:

  • ​​​Academic – Practical paradigm: A student will curate an exhibition of their own advanced and sophisticated practical work with a printed and online catalogue. This exhibition is accompanied by an academic explication / theoretical contextualisation of the body of practical work taking the form of a 60-80 page dissertation.
  • Practice-Led Research paradigm: As a result of the VIAD conference on PLR in 2009, the department accepts students whose research is led by and explicates the conceptualization, production, exhibition and reception of a body of their own advanced and sophisticated practical work. The written explication, in the form of a Research Report, accompanies the exhibition of work, along with a printed and online catalogue.
  • Applied Research paradigm: Community-Based Research (CBR) is undertaken within Participative Action Research (PAR) modes of appreciative enquiry. Such research always involves real-world and community-based research opportunities, often in conjunction with Phumani Paper and Artist Proof Studio. The dissertation is usually accompanied by an exhibition of community-based artefacts and products and includes a printed and online catalogue.
  • Theoretical Research paradigm: This research constitutes a 120-page dissertation on a particular academic, theoretical or art-historical topic. It is not usually accompanied by an exhibition but the student may curate one in relation to the issues researched in the dissertation. In such a case, a printed and online catalogue would be expected. NB. This option requires special consideration as it would be conducted outside of our practice / PAR foci.​


If you want to apply for a Master of Arts in Visual Art (MAVA) study, please take note of the following important information:

  • You require a minimum of 65% in all modules at 4th year level to be eligible to apply.
  • In order to qualify for the MAVA with a 4th year (BTech Fine Art or HONS) qualification, all applicants will need to present a research proposal to the Visual Art Department that demonstrates your suitability to register for the MAVA programme at an Entrance Assessment in mid-November (This may be presented as part on an on-line interview).
  • BTech graduates are also required to attend a Research Methodology workshop (details to be provided) to qualify for transition to an NQF Level 8 requirement.
  • All applicants are required to fill out an official UJ application form on-line and upload the following documents:
    • Statement of Intent. A short motivation of your intention to study towards the MAVA degree. The motivation should indicate your area of research interest, the research problem, a brief indication of the literature review
    • A portfolio of your artwork (5-10 images)
    • Your CV and University transcripts
    • You may be asked to provide an example of academic writing or reference letters
  • In addition, we will be offering some Zoom –based seminar workshops to assist applicants prepare for the Entrance Assessment. This is a requirement for those with a BTech qualification, and optional for students entering with an HONS qualification.
  • Seminars will be held on identified Monday afternoon sessions in October and November.
  • For general inquiries concerning the MAVA program, please Email Kim Berman before the end of July.

View 2021 MAVA Brochure here

For Honours study (in both Visual Art and Art Therapy) and Masters study, contact Prof. Kim Berman here

For Ph.D: Art & Design studies, contact Prof. Karen von Veh here

For Ph.D: Art History studies, contact Prof. Brenda Schmahamann here


Staff Research:

Professor Karen von Veh is a Full Professor and a National Research Foundation (NRF) C2 Rated Scholar. She is president of the South African Visual Art Historians (SAVAH), a member of the International Art History Association, CIHA (Comité Internationale d’Histoire de l’Art) and is on the editorial committee for De Arte. She has served on the board of directors of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association (ACASA), which is based in the USA. Her publications include several articles and book chapters on contemporary South African art concentrating on both gender and religious issues.

Professor Kim Berman is a Full Professor, National Research Foundation (NRF) C2 Rated Scholar, and Director of Artist Proof Studio, a community printmaking center in Johannesburg. Prof. Berman initiated Phumani Paper, a national poverty relief project funded by the Department of Science and Technology which set up papermaking enterprises across South Africa. The Papermaking Research and Development Unit (PRDU) launched South Africa’s first archival hand-papermaking mill which operates on our campus, alongside the FADA building. She has established Community Based Research (CBR) as a research focus and specialization for a Masters qualification in the Department (see ‘Student Research’ below) and, as of 2020, instituted Africa’s first Honours in Art Therapy qualification in the Departement. She has lectured and exhibited widely in South Africa, Europe and the United States. Prof. Berman runs the Postgraduate Studies program in the Department at Hons and Masters level..

Professor David Paton is an Associate Professor whose curatorial, artistic and academic research into the field of Artists’ Books has been internationally recognised. His research has been included as part of an international survey of the field of the Artists’ Book by the Centre for Fine Print Research, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. With internationally renowned collector, Jack Ginsberg, he has developed a research website that extensively documents the Artist’s Book and its digital interface in South Africa.

Dr Ruth Sacks is an academic and visual artist whose practice is based in the medium of artist books. Her first academic book, Congo Style: From Belgian Art Nouveau to African Independence will be published by Michigan University Press later this year. Research interests include Africa in the Anthropocene and the post-independence aesthetics of the African City. She is currently one of the co-directors of the large-scale group project Response-Ability, taking place at the Joubert Park Greenhouse Project. Sacks has exhibited widely locally and internationally, including at: M KHA Museum of Contemporary Art (Antwerp), ZKM | Centre for Arts and Media (Karlsruhe), Performa09 (New York), the African Pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, the National Museums of Kenya (Nairobi), the Johannesburg Art Gallery, Kunstverein (Amsterdam) and Extraspazio (Rome).

Gordon Froud is a Senior Lecturer and current Head of Department, and has been actively involved in the South African and international art world as an artist, educator, curator and gallerist for the last 35 years. He has shown in hundreds of solo and group shows in South Africa and overseas and has served on various arts committees throughout South Africa. He has judged many of the important Art competitions from local to national levels in South Africa, for example, he was represented in The Rainbow Nation sculpture exhibition in The Hague, Holland and was the first recipient of the Site-Specific land art residency in Plettenberg Bay. His research interests explore sculptural processes and the broad field of Lewis Carroll’s Alice and he has one of the most extensive collections of books and other artefacts on the subject in the world.

SARChI Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture:

In 2015 Prof. Brenda Schmahmann became the SARChI Research Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture. Hosted by the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture and integrated with the work of the faculty, this prestigious position is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and administered by the National Research Foundation (NRF). The SARChI Research Chair serves as a forum for initiatives in research by not only Prof Schmahmann but also postdoctoral fellows, postgraduate students and others working with her. The SARChI Research Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture provides a forum for producing significant research with immediate social relevance and impact for the heritage, museum, gallery and education sectors, for example, as well as providing essential support to art practitioners. It is also developing a new generation of postgraduates with qualifications and capacities to continue and expand this work.

Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD):

In 2005 the Department was responsible for the expansion of its Research Niche Area, titled: Visualising Identity in a Post-Colonial Environment into one of a hand-full of University-funded and supported Research Centres: Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD). In June 2007, Prof. Leora Farber became the RA’s director and she has facilitated a number of national conferences and colloquia on issues of visual identities. The aim of the Research Centre is to develop a strong research ethos and culture around the focus of visual identities in representation. Particular emphasis is placed on post-apartheid, post-colonial South African cultural identities which are currently emerging in a rapidly transforming society.