Go Ahead! Reflections on Teaching Curatorship in South Africa


Curatorial Talks 2013: An Annual Colloquium on Curating
Wits School of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
25 May 2013, 10am – 6pm

Wits School of Arts. ©

Curatorial Talks 2013

Initiated by Nontobeko Ntombela, Curatorial Talks is a series of public seminars held annually with the focus on curatorial and exhibition practices. Starting for the first time in 2013, these talks engage a varied group of practitioners in the field of art who are invited to present on their practices. For each year a theme is chosen and the theme for this year is the Educational Turn in Curating, looking at the increasing development of educational programmes in curatorial and exhibition practices. By addressing this talk within the theme of education, it asserts that curating increasingly operates as an expanded educational praxis. In South Africa, this is evident in the increase of curatorial workshops and the emergence of curatorial courses across a range of disciplines. Curatorial Talks thus contributes a critical reflection in this ongoing curatorial discourse through its public forums. It also aims to evaluate the need and impact of this practice, by discussing and recording its industry growth and its changes.

Advisory team: Rory Bester and Cynthia Kros.

Rory Bester, Nontobeko Ntombela. ©


Lerato Bereng, Clare Butcher, Joseph Gaylard, Raimi Gbadamosi, Rangoato Hlasane, Clive Kellner, Malose Malahlela, Portia Malatjie, Bettina Malcomess, Riason Naidoo, Siona O’Connell, Renaud Proch, Claudia Marion Stemberger, Rat Western.

Invited Public Talk: Go Ahead! Reflections on Teaching Curatorship in South Africa

Having recently taught curatorship in South Africa—at the Bag Factory in Johannesburg and at VANSA in Cape Town—I take both the participants' and my reflections as the starting point for this paper. Entitled Critical Curating, the workshops focused on contemporary curatorial discourse and addressed the pluralities of curatorial practice today. As part of the training, the participants conceptualized and presented curatorial proposals for comment, and where possible they also interacted with local curators from South Africa. To this effect, looking at the alleged or actual divide between the global South and the global North, this presentation looks at the rather Euro-American standpoint of the field of curatorial studies programmes.

Whether in South Africa or elsewhere, the majority of cultural producers and academics who have established curatorial training courses during the last decade(s) never enrolled in a curatorial course themselves. Embracing the potential of self-taught knowledge and the existing expertise of professionals in South Africa, additionally it is vital for a curatorial curriculum to critically reflect on the existing (albeit possibly already canonical) discourse. However, being aware that a large percentage of the discourse related to South Africa's art historiographies is still produced outside the African continent, one might wonder to what extent teaching curatorial studies at an academic level in South Africa will raise awareness of existing local expertise. After all, if we act on the assumption of competitiveness, what if South African academia were to go ahead and emerge as the forerunner of contemporary curatorial training in sub-Saharan Africa (or even globally)?

Claudia Marion Stemberger. ©


© — Claudia Marion Stemberger 2019