Art on our Mind Creative Dialogues

Art on our Mind Creative Dialogue with South African painter Lallitha Jawahirilal

Lallitha Jawahirilal (b. 1955, Ladysmith) is a South African visual artist, she enrolled at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in London in 1984 where she graduated with a BA Degree in in 1987. She continued to study at the Royal College of Art London and graduated with an MA degree in 1989. She collaborated with South African exile writers, musicians, sculptors, painters and photographers in the UK and engaged in fundraising efforts for to support the anti-apartheid movement, and participated in group exhibitions, including the ‘Artists Against Apartheid’ exhibition in the Upper Street Gallery. She held solo exhibitions at the Africa Centre in Stockholm, Gallery 21 in Johannesburg and the Galerie Trapez in Berlin. In 1990, she was awarded a residency by the Delfina Studios Trust in London and won the Discerning Eye Award in 1991, and the Pollack Krasner Award in 1992.

Her work deals with space as a deeply embedded construct in one’s psyche during exile. Jawahirilal fled apartheid South Africa in the 1980s and went into self-imposed exile in London where she then took up her art studies, continuously engaged her contradictory feelings to her home country (and especially her home town of Ladysmith) which wavers between deep loving emotion, on-going conflict and in some senses, a feeling of spiritual entanglement with her place of birth. Using her own poetry, mixed media (painting and collage), Jawahirilal’s Oh South Africa(1980, 2011) series reflects her longing for her home during her time away in London, but also since 2004 when she took up permanent residence in India. 

Art on our Mind Creative Dialogue with performance artist, dancer and choreographer Mamela Nyamza

Friday 6 September 16h-18h Wits Downstairs Theatre.

Mamela Nyamza (born and raised in Gugulethu, Cape Town) trained in dance at the Zama Dance School under the Royal Academy of Dance (Cape Town, South Africa). She furthered her studies at Pretoria Dance Technikon where she obtained a National Diploma in Ballet (Pretoria, South Africa). In 1998 she received a scholarship to study dance at the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre (New York, USA). Thereafter, she joined the State Theatre Dance Company (South Africa) and participated in national and international performances. Nyamza also attended choreography workshops at the Vienna International Dance Festival. She also received ballet training from Martin Schonberg at the Pact Dance Company (Pretoria, South Africa), attended African Dance workshops by Jamaine Acogny (Soweto, South Africa), and studied a dance course at Sadler’s Wells Theatre (London, United Kingdom).
She also focuses on socio-political themes such as violence, rape and lesbian identity. She recently returned from Edinburgh, UK, as one of the delegates from South Africa for the Edinburgh Theatre and Dance showcase under the British Council. Awards include: Standard Bank Young Artist Award in Dance (2011), Featured Artist in Dance at the National Arts Festival (2018), Mbokodo in Dance (2016), GLAMOUR creative women, among others. She is now based at the South African State Theatre as a Deputy Artistic Director, and some of her mandate is Curator for Dance Umbrella Africa, VAVASATI and 16 Days of Activism at The South African State Theatre.

She interrogates the dance medium of classical ballet and challenges the conventions for traditional dance norms taught in formal dance education and is skilled in multiple dance forms such as: modern dance, African dance, the Horton technique, Spanish dance, jazz movement, mime, flying low technique, release technique, gumboot dance, Butoh and many more.

Select solo and group performances include De-Apart-Hate at Johannesburg Dance Umbrella (Johannesburg, South Africa, 2017), Hatched (Johannesburg, France, Germany, Singapore, Egypt, Cairo, Mali, Tchad, USA, and UK’s Dance Umbrella, 2011; Infecting the City, Cape Town, 2013), I Stand Corrected, in collaboration with UK-based artist Mojisola Adebayo at the Ovalhouse (London, United Kingdom, 2012) and later at the Soweto Theatre, South Africa; Isingqala and Amafongkong, collaborative productions with the Adugna Dance Theatre Company (Ethiopia) at the National Arts Festival (Grahamstown, South Africa, 2011), and African Footprints (2006). Her latest work Black Privilege is still on demand internationally and nationally.

Art on our Mind Creative Dialogue with contemporary art curator Natasha Becker

Thursday 5 September 15.30h The Point of Order Gallery, Corner Bertha and, Stiemens St, Johannesburg.

Natasha was born in South Africa and has spent the last sixteen years living and working between New York and Cape Town. An expert in contemporary African and African American art, she has curated a number of exhibitions in collaboration with artists, curators, collectors, galleries, museums, and foundations internationally. She recently co-curated two exhibitions, “Perilous Bodies,” and “Radical Love,” at the distinguished Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice to inaugurate their new art gallery in New York (2019). Her past experience includes curating exhibitions at the Goodman Gallery (South Africa), convening public programs in global art history at the Clark Art Institute, and launching an international video art festival (both Massachusetts, USA). Natasha is one of the co-founders of two collaborative curatorial platforms, ASSEMBLY ROOM (New York) and THE UNDERLINE SHOW (Johannesburg). 

Theorising from the
Epicentres of our Agency

African Feminisms (Afems) Conference 2019
5-7 September 2019, Wits University, Johannesburg

Organised by the Department of Visual Arts, Wits University and the Department of Literary Studies in English, Rhodes University

The third edition of the African Feminisms (Afems) conference will happen from the 5-7 September 2019 at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, in collaboration with the Department of Literary Studies in English, Rhodes University.
The 2019 theme is based on Nigerian Stiwanist Molara Ogundipe’s conversation in 2002 with South African black feminist Desiree Lewis in which Ogundipe states:

For me, social ideas should emerge from a consciousness that thinks of what is beneficial to a human being as a person, not because the ideas occurred or are practiced in Europe or America. We need to overcome our endemic inferiority complex towards Europe and things “white,” successfully implanted since our colonial education and through its curricula. We should think from our epicentres of agency, looking for what is meaningful, progressive and useful to us as Africans, as we enrich ourselves with forerunning ideas from all over the world including Europe and America. … I felt that as concerned African women we needed to focus on our areas of concern, socially and geographically. I am concerned with critical and social transformations of a positive nature in Africa, positive meaning, being concerned with everything that maximises the quality of life of Africans and their potentials too.

This conversation highlights issues that continue to resonate with black-African-postcolonial feminists in Africa and beyond: lived experience as sites of knowledge; epistemologies tied to geo-specific bodies; long heterogenous world histories that co-exist with indigenous knowledges; cultural seepage; humanistic philosophical stances that refuse the ‘othering’ of Africa(ns) and claim our space and place in world-making; embodied thinking-doing; a plurality of feminisms that respond to the diversity of African women; the centrality of women in decolonial paradigms; an acknowledgement of acts of agency that define Africans on a daily basis; and a good dose of hopefulness for the future. For the 2019 Afems conference, we would like to issue a Call for Presentations around the idea of theorising from the epicentres of our agency, thinking through some of these areas:

  • What defines our epicentres?
  • What are the sites and range of ‘lived experiences’ that we are dealing with as we head towards the change of another decade and a fight back by what bell hooks has termed ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’?
  • What knowledges inform our centering and doing?
  • What does ‘theorising’ mean for black-African women?
  • How do we contest the colonial theory-praxis divide?
  • What role does creativities play in our world-thinking and world-making?
  • ‘Agency’ in Africa has so many connotations including the stereotype of the ‘development agency’. What does it mean ‘to have agency’? Does agency = active? What does it mean to be an agent or to be agentic?
  • How do we create change and organisations from the epicentres of the fields and the grassroots?
  • How does theorising from our geo-specific epicentres disrupt colonial paradigms and rethink decolonial epistemologies?
  • Can there be a centre without margins? Who are our margins as we look out from our epicentres?

How can we reach out from our diverse epicentres in our various countries in Africa across Anglophone/Lusophone/ Francophone divides to each other and to sisters across the seas to have global conversations that respond to not only the global eco-capitalist crisis we are in, but to enrich the terrain of the human experiences we share?

As always, all sessions are free and open to the university and general public. However, a registration fee of R500 will be charged to participants to cover the printing of the programme, drinks and meals. Registration fees will have to be paid in advance of the conference and are non-refundable.

To register, follow this link:

The African Feminisms (Afems) Conference is hosted by the Art on our Mind research project run by Prof Sharlene Khan (Wits University) and the Urban Connections and Popular Imaginaries in Africa (UCAPI) research project run by Dr Lynda Spencer (Rhodes University). 

For more information, refer to the website of Afems at:

Or contact Prof Khan or Dr Spencer on

Afems is generously supported by

Donors who are interested in supporting the conference, find Afems banking details here.