CELEBRATING & EXPLORING AFRICAN ART, CULTURE & DESIGN - PAST & PRESENT
CONTINUING A HERITAGE
The Art Institute South Africa is dedicated to art curation, commentary and cultural sociology - rooted in the broad African context.
Our activities include curation (physical and digital), lectures, workshops, tours, and exploration into cultural and material design (built, graphic, material) and art.
Deriving its name from the Art Institute South Africa of 1970 South Africa, established by Kathy's mother, acclaimed art historian, Dr. Esmé Berman, the Art Institute is also the home of significant cultural archives - Esmé Berman's primary research and multi-media archives, which cover the late 19th to mid-twentieth Century, supplemented by Kathy Berman's expansive video and print archives of the 1980s. While the elder Berman's original manuscripts were bequeathed to Wits archives, Kathy has commenced re-purposing her vital video records of the epochal era that led into democracy. She is hoping to digitally transfer all materials for preservation and access for a 21st century audience.
The original Art Institute was established by Esmé, and operated from a bespoke theatre in Hyde Park Shopping Centre (Johannesbug). It was conceived of as an educational foundation for students, learners and art lovers. At that time, when South Africa was brutally segregated by Apartheid, the Art Institute provided a place of sanctuary for artists, students and patrons from all backgrounds and locations to mix freely and converge around culture
Today, in a democratic South Africa, when South Africa is at the centre of the African art renaissance, the Art Institute established Kathy, a cultural activist of the 1980s and early 1990s, and a contemporary cultural community catalyst and impact entrepreneur, caters for the needs of a new market, and a new audience.
Pierre Vermeulen 2017
Our projects are bespoke.
We meet with our clients and assess their needs - personal collections, private legacy options, or corporate social impact.
Over the years, our team has worked across the board - from academic and journalistic activities through to large-scale project initiation and implementation.
Kathryn (Kathy) commenced her career as a lecturer and cultural critic in the 1980s for Weekly Mail and later Vrye Weekblad, and continues today as a curator, coach, commentator and innovator across a range of disciplines: Following a successful career in corporate finance advisory, public sector strategy, and innovation as a practice, Kathryn now works in contemporary curation, design and project origination - digital and industrial. She is the founder of the MuseumStore.Africa which provides a route to market for her work in managing accelerators and incubators for creative social entrepreneurs and included a permanent store at the Javett Art Centre (until lock-down), an online store and various bespoke curated collections for corporates, community and tourist projects.
Her last substantial architectural project was for the GE Africa innovation Centre. It included digital exhibition curation and extensive industrial design and commissioning.
She continues to lecture, write and mentor in culture, social entrepreneurialism, socio-politics and innovation. She serves as a board memeber of Business and Arts South Africa.
During lock-down, Kathy was engaged in daily and weekly social cultural impact projects, initiating www.masks4good.com, www.womandlachallenge.com, and curating, presenting and managing the massive Campus Party South Africa global broadcast. Each bespoke project served to catalyse major cultural activity and significant investment in communities.
Jackson Hlunwani: An epochal journey through, and beyond, time.
I first met Jackson Hlungwani in 1986 at his home in Mbhokota village near Giyani in present-day Limpopo – at that time, in the apartheid homeland of Gazankulu. He was a slight, wizened man whose smile filled the majestic surrounds – an ancient and revitalised iron-age rock temple, similar in feel to the Zimbabwe ruins, then transformed by Hlungwani to become his “New Jerusalema”, a shrine and temple housing his sacred homages to his Christian God.
Humbly attired in working clothes – ageing khaki pants and frayed white shirt, complemented with a threadbare woollen pullover and jacket, and knitted cap reaching the sky and concealing a head of dreadlocks, he walked with a limp – the result of a deep and constantly seeping injury to his right shin in the 1960s – but his arms were always open wide to welcome his visitors and his God with a booming “Hallelujah!” to his stone eyrie from where he created a spiritual world of “Up and Down, Old and New, Alpha and Omega”.
Today Hlungwani’s vast oeuvre has been resurrected for 21st century audiences: brought together into a meticulously mounted exhibition, curated by Karel Nel, Nessa Leibhammer and Amos Letsoalo at the Norval Foundation in Cape Town. The exhibition brings together many of the original works curated for the first Hlungwani retrospective held in Newtown in 1989 and then curated by Ricky Burnett.
JIn 1987, architect Peter Rich, photographer Rogan Coles & TV Director, Kathy Berman visited artist, visionary and preacher, Jackson Hlungwane at his temple, New Jerusalema, in then-Gazankulu. This is Part 2 of a documentary directed by Kathy Berman. It has been transferred and re-mastered for the Jackson Hlungwane retrospective exhibition of 2020 at the Norval Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa. This is the only known available footage of Jackson Hlungwane at New Jerusalema, built on the site of an iron-age settlement. In 1989, all the sculptures from the altar were transported to Johannesburg for his retrospective exhibition at the Newtown Galleries. They were subsequently sold to the Standard Bank African Art Collection, at the Wits Art Museum.
William Kentridge – A Grand Procession over Four Decades.
From the gentility of the bourgeois boudoir and boardroom to the Real-politik “on the ground”. That has been the four-decade long journey of South Africa’s most significant and globally capped visual artist, William Kentridge. And while so much of the focus of the dual retrospective exhibitions, “Why Should I Hesitate: Putting Drawings to Work,”and “Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture”, which opened in Cape Town at the Zeitz MOCAA and Norval Foundation this past weekend, has been on art as art-making process, it is in the searing social commentary, and its artistic formulation, that Kentridge’s genius lies. Significantly, it was born from the fertile soils of Apartheid South Africa. Kathy Berman takes a step back in time
While the art world across every continent has luxuriated in expansive exhibitions and monumental installations of the genius that is William Kentridge, we have had to wait for decades for William Kentridge to share his prodigious oeuvre with us, his nation-family, in, apparently, the largest retrospective exhibitions to date. (Kentridge has enjoyed the honour of many “career surveys” in the past). And: What a journey. What a Homecoming. Traversing decades and lifetimes. At once so familiar. Kentridge, the cultural commentator, and his full team of collaborators, have unfurled on us, the gallery-attending public, a massive oeuvre. Emanating as it did from the violent despotism of 1970s and ‘80s South Africa – and onwards over four decades, and many more countries, Kentridge has soared and flourished, amassed global acclaim and brought in more and more collaborators on larger commissions. From Art/Apartheid reality he provided macroscopic commentaries encompassing art and cultural history, ideologies, political depravity - colonial, post-colonial and contemporary histories and realities – Ethiopia, Istanbul, and, most recently, Lampedusa, Southern Italy.
A lecture by Kathy Berman in 2018 using archival recorded interview by Esmé Berman of Maggie Laubser in 1968, with intervention and commentary at
Introductory Video: 'Remembering Maggie Laubser' Presentation
Mail & Guardian art journalist, Zaza Hlalethwa attended the lecture at Strauss&Co, and thought the interface of histories of interest to her readers. 8 March 2019