Shelley Barry was born and raised in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, and completed graduate studies in English and Drama at the University of Cape Town and University of the Western Cape. She has worked extensively as a disability rights activist, following a shooting in the Cape taxi wars of 1996 that resulted in her being a wheelchair user. She has held positions as Media Manager in the Office on the Status of Disabled Persons in the Presidency and as the National Parliamentary Policy Co-ordinator for Disabled People South Africa. During this time, she co-ordinated Nelson Mandela’s guard of honour for his State of Nation address in 1997. Shelley was awarded Ford Foundation scholarship and graduated with an MFA in Film at Temple University in Philadelphia in 2006. She was a Carnegie scholar at Wits University from 2007-2008 and taught documentary at Big Fish School of Digital Filmmakingand at UWC where she pioneered filmmaking in the Women’s and Gender studies department. Shelley held positions in the FPB South Africa, Mediaworks and currently serves on the board of Street Stories Films. She is associated with Gun Free South Africa and gave a testimony towards ending gun violence at the United Nations in 2006.
Shelley developed and managed the Programming department at Cape Town TV (CTV) 2008- 2010, which offers training workshops in filmmaking. She facilitated filmmaking workshops at The Saartjie Baartman Centre and for the organisation Genderdynamix; the Feroza Adam Legacy Programmemade it possible to run various further filmmaking programmes.Shelley ran the community based film school and production company twotrainingwheelswhich aims to explore new languages in cinema and marginalised voices having access to the craft of filmmaking. She is currently training 15 young women in mobile phone filmmaking in Diepsloot, Johannesburg and is based at The University of Johannesburg where she teaches film. She commences her Creative PhD in film at The University of the Witwatersrand since 2018.
Her films span across genres and are largely experimental in style. She often shoots her own films, exploring the aesthetics of cinematography from the perspective of a wheelchair user. Screenings of her work have been held at major festivals and events around the world and been acquired by television, including MTV, DUTV and WYBE in the U.S and SABC and etv in South Africa. She was selected to be on the SA film delegations to MIPCOM, France, The European Film Market, Berlin, The Rio Content Market, Brazil, Cannes, France and The Tribeca Film Festival, New York. In 2017 she was selected to be the filmmaker of focus for the Mzansi Women’s Film Festival.
Awards include: Audre Lorde scholarship; Distinguished Graduate Student Award (Pennsylvania Association of Graduate schools); best film awards for the experimental documentary titled Whole-A Trinity of Being at international festivals in NYC, Canada, Moscow, San Francisco, Toronto, Philadelphia and New Jersey; best documentary for Where we planted trees(Diamond Screen film festival Philadelphia). Inclinationsmade the top ten best click list on MTN online. etv commissioned Diaries of a Dissident Poet on poet James Matthews, which premiered to a sold-out audience at Encounters in 2014. In 2018, she received the SAFTA award for Outstanding Disability Contributor to the SA Film and Television industry.
The process of reclaiming my body was an exceptionally powerful and liberating experience. I understood desire and sensuality from a completely different perspective. I realized that passion is something that everyone can access (it is not reserved for the young and the able-bodied), and it can suffuse through every aspect of our lives. I recognized the importance of self-love as opposed to requiring af rmation from others in order to love myself.
Shelley Barry (2006) Disability and desire: journey of a Filmmaker.
Feminist Africa 6, 65.
Shelley Barry and Beverley Barry in conversation at Rhodes Fine Art Department on 29 September 2018.
VIDEO: Art on our Mind Creative Dialogue with Shelley Barry
AUDIO: Art on our Mind Creative Dialogue with Shelley Barry
TRANSCRIPT: Art on our Mind Creative Dialogue with Shelley Barry
ARCHIVAL RESOURCES: Shelley Barry
WORKS by Shelley Barry
PRESS AND REVIEWS on Shelley Barry