Research & Community Engagement Home


FADA Research Publications:

Research as Practice Vol. 1, 2014

Research as Practice Vol. 2, 2015


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

For Masters study, contact Prof. Kim Berman here 

For Ph.D. studies, contact Prof. Brenda Schmahamann here

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.

The establishment of 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. 

Staff Research:

Professor Kim Berman is a National Research Foundation (NRF) Rated Scholar, director of Artist Proof Studio, a community printmaking centre in Johannesburg, and 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 has lectured and exhibited widely in South Africa, Europe and the United States. Prof. Berman runs the Postgraduate Study program in the Department.

Professor Karen von Veh is the Head of Department and a National Research Foundation (NRF) Rated Scholar, 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.

David Paton is a Senior Lecturer in the department 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 which extensively documents the practice of the Artist's Book and its digital interface in South Africa.

Vedant Nanackchand is a lecturer in the department where his teaching and research focuses on printmaking, human rights, democracy and citizenship. He has served as the chairperson of the Board of Directors of Artist Proof Studio, Johannesburg and is a member of Art for Humanity, Durban. Both NGOs are art & human rights advocacy organizations respectively. He has co-convened an exhibition of the International Print Portfolio at the UN in Geneva.

Gordon Froud is a Senior Lecturer in the Department and has been actively involved in the South African and international art world as artist, educator, curator and gallerist for the last 30 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. Last year 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 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.

Shonosani Netshia’s Postgraduate research dissertation is titled From Colonial to Post-Colonial: Shifts in cultural meanings in Dutch lace and Shweshwe fabric. Her research and painting explore how, through painterly alteration and transformation, shifts can occur in the meanings of patterns derived from these culturally-loaded sources. She is a Lecturer in the Department and has been involved in a number of group and collaborative arts projects and has facilitated workshops funded by the Goethe Institute Johannesburg. She has also participated in a number of initiatives including being a research assistant for the Community based initiative: Cultural Action for Change under Professor Kim Berman, and the Isithunzi Writing Workshop at Artist Proof Studio.

Student Research:

Student Research is undertaken across a wide range of issues and methods but which has Identity as its broad research focus. 

The Department's postgraduate students have opportunities to take up international fellowships for the development of their research. Past students have taken up the following fellowships and residencies:

  • Moody Scholar Exchange Fellowship, University of Michigan, USA 
  • MAPS Residency, Sierre, Switzerland
  • Frans Masereel Centrum, Kasterlee, Belguim
  • Department of Art, Appalachian State University, USA
  • Dunedin School of Art, Otago Politechnic, Dunedin, New Zeeland  

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 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 always accompanied by an exhibition but the student may curate one in relation to the issues researched in the dissertation, in which 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.

For Enquiries please Email  Kim Berman before the end of July.