SARChI Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture

Brenda Schmahmann is the author of Through the Looking Glass: Representations of South African Women Artists (2004), Mapula: Embroidery and Empowerment in the Winterveld (2006), Picturing Change: Curating Visual Culture at Post-Apartheid Universities (2013) and The Keiskamma Art Project: Restoring Hope and livelihoods (2016). She is the editor or co-editor of Material Matters (2000), Between Union and Liberation: Women Artists in South Africa, 1910-1994, Public Art in South Africa: Bronze Warriors and Plastic Presidents (2017); she also co-edited (with Kim Miller) a special issue of African Arts on gender (2012), edited a special issue of Textile: Cloth and Culture on intertextuality and parody (2017) and co-edited (with Kim Miller) two special issues of de arte. Her most recent book (co-edited with Federico Freschi and Lize van Robbroeck) is Troubling Images: Visual Culture and the Politics of Afrikaner Nationalism (2020). She has published more than 75 scholarly articles or book chapters as well as many reviews, and has curated two large-scale travelling exhibitions. She has a rating of B2 from the National Research Foundation.


Telephone: 011 559 7220

Senior Lecturer

Irene Bronner held a postdoctoral fellowship with the SARChI Chair in Art and Visual Culture from August 2016 to June 2019. For research during this time, she received a University of Johannesburg Postdoctoral Research Fellows’ Excellence Award. In her PhD (University of Johannesburg, 2016), Irene examined representations of domestic workers in post-apartheid South African art practice. Her primary supervisor was Prof. Brenda Schmahmann; a compilation clip of her graduation may be viewed here: Irene has published in local and international journals, notably in Textile: Journal of Cloth and Culture and Woman’s Art Journal. Her research interests centre on feminist studies in the visual arts, with a focus on contemporary Southern Africa, working principally with feminist, queer and postcolonial cultural theory as well as issues of memory, affect, gender, and the aftermath of trauma. She has a rating of Y1 from the National Research Foundation.


Telephone: 011 559 7225

Postdoctoral Research Fellows

Philippa Hobbs (since July 2019)

Philippa Hobbs’s PhD (University of Johannesburg, 2019) examined issues of ideology and female agency in tapestries made at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Art and Craft Centre, Rorke’s Drift, during the Swedish period 1961-1976. She was supervised by Prof. Brenda Schmahmann; a compilation clip of her graduation may be seen here: She was instrumental in collating the Power, Gender and Community Art Archive and lodging it at the University of Johannesburg Library. Philippa has co-authored three publications (with Elizabeth Rankin), including Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke (2011) and Rorke’s Drift: Empowering Prints (2003). As Curator of the MTN Art Collection (2004-2014), Philippa curated national travelling exhibitions, also editing accompanying publications, notably Messages and Meaning (2005). Philippa is currently extending her PhD research to some of the outcomes of the Rorke’s Drift practice, such as the Thabana-li-Mele weavery in Lesotho and Allina Ndebele’s independent workshop in Northern KwaZulu-Natal.


Melissa Gerber (since January 2022)

Melissa Gerber obtained her PhD in Music (University of the Free State) in 2021. In her thesis entitled “(De)coding Contemporary South African Opera: Multimodality and the Creation of Meaning, 2010-2018,” she unpacked the multimodal character of opera production and constructed a framework to map the reciprocal processes of meaning-making between creators, designers, performers, and audiences. Initially trained as a classical vocalist, Melissa received her BMus and MMus degrees in Performing Arts (both awarded with distinction) from the University of Pretoria and a Graduate Diploma in Vocal Performance from the Royal College of Music, London. Building on her PhD, her current research focuses on the intersections between opera production and its material remnants within the broader network of visual culture of apartheid South Africa. Her research has been published in conference proceedings in the UK and South Africa, and recently in SAMUS: South African Music Studies.


Theo Sonnekus (since May 2021)

Theo obtained a PhD in Visual Arts from Stellenbosch University in 2016 and is currently researching a selection of coffee-table books of homoerotic male nude photography published by Alternative Books in South Africa in the late apartheid period (1981-1991). The project invites critical perspectives on apartheid-era censorship, desire and pleasure, nationalism and heteronormativity, and the politics of multiracial representation. He recently contributed chapters to the Routledge Handbook of Critical Studies in Whiteness (2022) and Troubling Images: Visual Culture and the Politics of Afrikaner Nationalism (Wits University Press, 2020).


Associate Postdoctoral Research Fellows

Alex Halligey is a Postdoctoral Fellow at JIAS (Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study), based at the University of Johannesburg. Her doctoral thesis was published by Routledge in 2019 as Participatory Theatre and the Urban Everyday in South Africa: Place and Play in Johannesburg. Her doctorate from the University of Cape Town was awarded in 2018. Both examine the daily place-making practices in a cluster of three Johannesburg suburbs: Bertrams, Lorentzville and Judith’s Paarl, explored through a year-long participatory, theatre-based public art project Halligey ran from 2015 to 2016. Currently, she is developing a collection of scholarly and creative contributions critically engaging the work of the South African, women-centred theatre arts collective, the Mothertongue Project.


Incoming Postdoctoral Research Fellows

In 2022, Everjoy Magwegwe

Former Postdoctoral Research Fellows

Elia Eliev (2021-2022)

Currently working with a research grant-focused organization in Canada.

Irene Bronner (2016-2019)

Currently Senior Lecturer with the SARChI Chair in Art and Visual Culture, FADA, University of Johannesburg.

Malcolm Corrigall (2016-2018)

Currently Postdoctoral Researcher at Bournemouth University, UK., and a Research Associate with the SARChI Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture, University of Johannesburg

Annemi Conradie (2019)

Currently Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Arts, University of the North West.

Mathodi Motsamayi (2019-2020)

Currently exploring opportunities in the academic and heritage sectors in KZN.

​PhD Candidates and their research projects

Firdoze Bulbulia, “The Fordsburg Women’s Group: Memories of Indian female activism in the 1980s”

Hazel Cuthbertson, ” “Ideas of Africanness in Alexis Preller’s Discovery of the Sea Route around Africa mural” (Supervisor: Prof. Brenda Schmahmann).

S’nothile Gumede, [Project to be determined] (Supervisor: Prof Brenda Schmahmann).

Ayobola Kekere-Ekun, “Place branding in advertising campaigns by the Lagos state government” (Supervisor: Prof. Brenda Schmahmann; Co-superviser: Prof Deirdre Pretorius).

Khanya Mthethwa, “Decoloniality: An investigation of how coloniality of knowledge has impacted on BaVenda and AmaZulu waist belts”(Supervisor: Prof Anitra Nettleton; Co-supervisor: Prof Brenda Schmahmann).

Sinethemba Twalo, “Affect, Objecthood and Blackness in Dineo Seshee Bopape’s Works” (Supervisor: Prof. Brenda Schmahmann).

Dineke van der Walt, “Curating Difficult Knowledge: Engagements with Sexual Violence in Exhibitions from the Early 21st Century” (Supervisor: Prof. Brenda Schmahmann).Email:


PhD Graduates

Irene Bronner, “Representations of Domestic Workers in Post-Apartheid South African Art Practice”; Currently Senior Lecturer, SARChI Chair, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg,

Jayne Crawshay-Hall, “Reconceptualising curatorial strategies and roles: Autonomous curating in Johannesburg between 2007 and 2016”; Currently Academic Head at Open Window Institute,

Roxy do Rego, “Parodies of Classical Mythologies by Women Artists in Post-Apartheid South Africa”; Currently Art History and Art Practical Lecturer, Humanities Education department, University of Pretoria,

Philippa Hobbs, “Ideology, imagery and female agency in tapestry at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Art and Craft Centre, Rorke’s Drift, during the Swedish period 1961-1976”; Currently Postdoctoral Research Fellow, SARChI Chair, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg,

Deléne Human, “Censorship and proscription of visual art in apartheid South Africa”(Supervisor: Prof. Brenda Schmahmann). Currently History of Art, Practical Art and Art Methodologies Lecturer in the Department of Humanities Education at the University of Pretoria,

Thabang Monoa, “The exploration of Blackness in Afrofuturist aesthetics” (Supervisor: Prof. Brenda Schmahmann). Currently Lecturer in Art History in the Michaelis School of Art, University of Cape Town,

MA and M.Tech Candidates

Angelique Bougaard

(Supervisor: Dr Irene Bronner; Co-supervisor: Prof David Paton)

Kailashnee Naidoo

(Supervisor: Dr Marlize Groenewald)

Khulile Sibanda

(Supervisor: Mr. Amukelani Muthambi and Prof Deirdre Pretorius)

MA and M.Tech Graduates

Kate’Lyn Chetty

(Supervisor: Landi Raubenheimer; Co-supervisor: Prof Brenda Schmahmann)

Muziwandile Gigaba

(Supervisor: Prof Brenda Schmahmann; Co-supervisor: Prof Kim Berman)

Ra’eesah Hoosen

(Supervisor: Prof Deirdre Pretorius)

Allen Laing

(Supervisor: Dr David Paton; Co-supervisor: Prof Brenda Schmahmann)

Lisa Linossi

(Supervisor: Prof Brenda Schmahmann; Co-supervisor: Vedant Nanackchand)

Alexa Pienaar

(Supervisor: Prof Brenda Schmahmann; Co-supervisor: Prof David Paton)

Nthabiseng Mbale

(Supervisor: Dr Anthony Ambala; Co-supervisor: Landi Raubenheimer)

Kiveshan Thumbiran

(Supervisor: Prof Brenda Schmahmann; Co-supervisor: Minnette Vari)

Jaylin Richardson

(Supervisor: Prof Brenda Schmahmann; Co-supervisor: Bronwyn Findley)

Xolisa Sibeko

(Supervisor: Dr Marelize Groenewald)

Vanessa Tembane

(Supervisor: Prof Brenda Schmahmann; Co-supervisor: Vedant Nanackchand)

Current B.Tech/Honours Candidates

No candidates in 2022.

B.Tech/Honours Graduates

  • Alexia Ferreira
  • Sinead Fletcher
  • Carey Jayanandham

Senior Research Associate

Federico Freschi

Federico Freschi is Head of College and Full Professor at Otago Polytechnic, in Dunedin, New Zealand. Prior to Sept 2019, he was the Executive Dean of and Full Professor at the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg. His primary research interest is into the political iconography of South African public buildings, with a secondary line of research into the construction of the canon of modern South African art. He has published widely on these and other subjects. In 2016, he was the South African curator of ‘Henri Matisse: Rhythm and Meaning’ at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg, the first exhibition of Matisse’s work on the African continent. He is co-editor (with Brenda Schmahmann and Lize van Robbroeck) of Troubling Images: Visual Culture and the Politics of Afrikaner Nationalism (2020). Federico has a rating of C1 from the National Research Foundation.


Research Associates

Paul Weinberg

Paul Weinberg is a well-known and award-winning South African documentary photographer, filmmaker, writer, curator and archivist. He was a founder member of Afrapix and South, the collection photo agencies that gained international recognition for their role in documenting apartheid and resistance to it. Since 1990, he has shifted towards a focus on feature rather than news photography. He is based in Cape Town. Paul has a rating of C1 from the National Research Foundation.


Kim Miller

Kim Miller is a Professor and holds the Jane Oxford Keiter Professorship of women’s and gender studies of art history at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. Miller’s scholarship, which examines the relationship between visual culture, gender and power in African arts, includes her forthcoming book, How Did They Dare? Women’s Activism and the Work of Memory in South African Commemorative Art.


Malcolm Corrigall

Malcolm Corrigall is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at Bournemouth University. His PhD (SOAS, University of London) examined the history of the Chinese Camera Club of South Africa. During a postdoctoral fellowship with the SARChI Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture (2016-2018), he researched neglected photographers and photographic traditions in South Africa. His current research interests include digital art in South Africa and the relationship between Nigerian art and politics.