The Role of the Visual Arts in Social Change: Three South African Case Studies - Artist Proof Studio, Paper Prayers and Phumani Paper

Kim Berman
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This paper presents three case studies that use the visual arts to bring about social change in post-apartheid South Africa. Artist Proof Studio, (a community printmaking center with a membership of 120 artists) Paper Prayers (HIV/AIDS awareness programme using the visual arts and crafts) and Phumani Paper (a government funded poverty alleviation programme that has created hundreds of jobs around SA) reflect a range of approaches that parallel the political transformation to democracy from 1991 to the present.

The premise of this paper is that the visual arts can provide a valuable tool for social transformation, particularly in developing countries where literacy levels are low. Visual artists bring a special strength to facilitating the role of the imagination in aspiring for a better future. Cultural activism plays a critical role in South Africa - a country undergoing major transformation but facing the challenges of historical disadvantage and cultural conservatism.

Collaborative research methodologies such as practice-based and participatory action research now more commonly used in development projects have added significance when used to support cultural interventions. Applications of these are valuable not only for cultural interventions, but mainstream development initiatives also.

The paper will draw on fifteen years of activism and experience. It evaluates the outcomes of three programmes that began with idealistic aims – not only for political transformation, but for challenging the rigid boundaries that often exist between formal and informal learning environments. It argues that social transformation has most potential when it integrates existing cultural reference points with multi-disciplinary approaches and practices. In so doing, it draws upon theoretical models and analyses of cross-cultural arts programs elsewhere in the world that could be applicable for South Africa.

Keywords: Visual Arts Projects, Community engagement, Social Change, Sustainable Development
Stream: Art in Communities
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Role of the Visual Arts in Social Change in South Africa, The

Kim Berman

Senior Lecturer,, Fine Art Department, University of Johannesburg, Director, Phumani Paper
South Africa

Kim Berman is the Director of Artist Proof Studio and Senior Lecturer in Printmaking at the University of Johannesburg. She received her B.F.A. from the University of the Witwatersrand, and a M.F.A. from Tufts University, Mass, USA. She founded the Artist Proof Studio (APS), a community printmaking Centre in Newtown in 1992. Kim Berman initiated the Paper Prayers campaign- AIDS awareness through the visual arts from 1996. It currently operates out of APS as a successful income generating activity for HIV positive groups of rural and urban women.
Kim Berman received grant funding from the governments Department of Science and Technology in 2000 to implement a national poverty alleviation programme called Phumani Paper as a community engagement initiative of the UJ. Phumani Paper has set up 20 papermaking projects in seven provinces of South Africa and created hundreds of jobs through the production of paper-craft products.
Kim Berman has lectured and exhibited widely in South Africa and internationally. She has registered to do a doctorate on the role of the arts in social change in South Africa.

Ref: A06P0045