CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


ALLARA, Pamela
Gendered Practices in South African Art: Three Artists/Three Decades

Session 10 Gendered Practices

Brandeis University 


Pamela Allara, associate professor emerita, Brandeis University

During the 1980s, feminist concerns were downplayed in South Africa, as political activism was channeled toward ending the oppressive apartheid regime. Despite their tentative beginnings, however, feminist artistic practice and scholarship have flourished in South Africa over the past 30 years. Broadly, the trajectory of feminism and gender studies in South Africa began primarily as a white, middle-class issue, then increasingly re-focused to encompass non-western and non-white positions that are predominantly anti-colonial, anti-patriarchal and anti-heterosexist. Three artists, each born about a decade apart, will represent the arc of South African feminism. Despite the disparate range of their practices, issues of race, gender, sexuality, politics and history remain inseparable in their works, often as registered viscerally through the body. Penny Siopis (b. 1953) has based her work in western feminist theory, while insisting that race and gender are inextricably conjoined in South African society. Berni Searle (b. 1964) has interrogated cultural notions of gender and racial identities as imposed on the non-white body. Zanele Muholi (b. 1972) has provided an assertive presence for LGBTI communities that continue to be marginalized and subjected to violence. 

ALLARA, Pamela 

Pamela Allara is an art historian, curator and critic. The author of a monograph on the American Painter Alice Neel, Allara taught modern and contemporary art for over 30 years at first at Tufts University and then at Brandeis University. Her recent research has investigated social activism in contemporary South African art. In 2012, she organized “The Boston-Joburg Connection: Collaboration and Exchange at Artist Proof Studio, 1983-2012” for the Tufts University Art Gallery. In 2016, she curated “Paul Emmanuel: Remnants” for the Boston University Art Gallery. Her articles have been published in African ArtsNka and de Arte, among others. She is Associate Professor emerita of Brandeis University and currently a Visiting Researcher in the African Studies Center at Boston University.