It is important to make visible the contemporary Art History and Visual Culture curriculum’s erasure of multi-modal black art histories. By ‘multi-modal’ I mean the many mechanisms that have and can be employed by art educators to delete, omit black visual cultures from contemporary South African art history curriculums. My goal is to show how the inclusion of these multi-modal black art histories can spark new conversations about black art practitioners, their work, the manner in which they choose to express themselves and visualise black life through various visual apparatuses. I believe this can be achieved through curriculum transformation. My interest in curriculum transformation is informed by two important events: my exposure as an undergraduate art history and visual culture student to a curriculum that centred and valorised Western art history and the student led Fallist movements demands that included the decolonisation of the educational system, transformation of universities to address racial and gender inequalities in terms of staff composition” (Langa 2017, 6). Although students’ demands were valid, on-going discourses on curriculum decolonisation have shown that institutional transformation could not simply be accomplished by employing black academics nor should it be the sole responsibility of black academics to do the work of transformation. For example, in her essay Trying to Transform feminist scholar Sara Ahmed argues that for true institutional transformation to take place, institutions must first acknowledge that appointing someone to transform the institution is “not the same thing as an institution being willing to be transformed (by someone who is appointed)” (Ahem 2017). Secondly, that the inclusion of black scholarship in curriculums may be one way to help undo Western scholarships’ authority over disciplines. But it is not enough. If institutions want to effectively respond to students’ demands Ahmed says, then they need to start “thinking differently”. An integral part of this decolonial process requires institutions to acknowledge their complicity: that they are not exterior to the problem but are part of the problem that is “under investigation”(Ahem 2017).
Mbali Khoza is an artist and Art History and Visual Arts Lecturer at Rhodes University whose research interrogates authorial identity in artistic practice, by posing the question ‘what difference does it make whose is speaking?’. Through a critical analysis of post-colonial artist practice, she investigates the ways in which artists use visual language to not only speak but rethink ways of speaking. Khoza has participated in a number of exhibitions, such as the Gwanza Photography at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (2011), Rechewed at the Centre of Historical Reenactments (CHR), (2011), Out of Thin Air at the Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town (2012), After After Tears, with CHR at The New Museum, Museum as Hub,New York (2013), Regions A-G, Johannesburg Library (2013), BLINDSPOT at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown (2014), next thing you know, Blank Gallery, Cape Town (2014), Poetics of Relation, LiveInYourHead, Geneva (2015). She is currently enrolled at WiSER as a History of Art PhD student. Her PhD research examines the historicity of blackness, black existence and black expressive culture. She is the author journal article Seeing Blackness through Black Expressive Culture: A Reading of Zanele Muholi’s Somnyama Ngonyama – Hail the Dark Lioness