An evening of conversation with Ruth Sacks, a Johannesburg-based visual artist and author of Congo Style: From Belgian Art Nouveau to Independence. Sacks will show some of her recent visual work and talk with us about her practice as an artist and a scholar. How do architecture and the visual arts register and respond to the complex dynamics of colonialism and decolonization? How do Kinshasa and Johannesburg compare as sites for imagining African futures?
Ruth Sacks is a visual artist and academic whose creative practice is based in sculptural installation, artist books, and writing. Her research interests are southern cities in the Anthropocene, decolonizing design, and post-independence aesthetics in Africa. Sacks’ most recent artist book, The Remaindering, launched in 2022, and her first academic monograph, Congo Style: From Belgian Art Nouveau to African Independence (Michigan University Press, 2023) has just been released. Recent publications include a chapter in Planetary Hinterlands: Extraction, Abandonment and Care (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023). Sacks has exhibited widely as an artist, including at the Venice Biennale (2007), Performa 09 (New York 2009) and ZKM |Centre for Art and Media (Karlsruhe, 2011). In 2023, her work was exhibited at the CIVA Museum (Brussels) and the UJ Art Gallery, (Johannesburg). She is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg in the Visual Art Department and was one of the directors of the large-scale group project Response-ability at the Joubert Park Greenhouse Project (Johannesburg, 2020-1).
Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi is an architectural historian at Barnard College, Columbia University, and author of Architecture of Migration: The Dadaab Refugee Camps and Humanitarian Settlement (Duke University Press, Theory in Forms, 2024) on the spatial politics, visual rhetoric, ecologies, and long colonial traditions of the UNHCR-administered camps at Dadaab, Kenya. Siddiqi is the co-editor of the collections Feminist Architectural Histories of Migration and Spatial Violence. Her book manuscript, Ecologies of the Past: The Inhabitations and Designs of Anil and Minnette de Silva, analyzes the politics of heritage environments through the work of Sri Lankan architect Minnette de Silva and art historian Anil de Silva-Vigier.
Jennifer Wenzel is jointly appointed in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies. Her book, Bulletproof: Afterlives of Anticolonial Prophecy in South Africa and Beyond, published by Chicago and KwaZulu-Natal in 2009, was awarded Honorable Mention for the Perkins Prize by the International Society for the Study of Narrative. Her essays on postcolonial theory, ecocriticism and environmental humanities, memory studies, postconsumerism, petrocultures, and African and South Asian literatures have appeared in journals including Alif, Cultural Critique, Modern Fiction Studies, PMLA, Postcolonial Studies, Public Culture, Research in African Literatures, and Resilience.