15 June, 2009 | School of Tourism and Hospitality, Bunting Road Campus, University of Johannesburg


The one-day national conference hosted by the Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD) Research Centre, titled Imaging ourselves: visual identities in representation was held at the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) School of Tourism and Hospitality. Taking its cue from the relevance of transforming conceptions of South African identities (individual and collective) in a post-1994 democracy, the thematic of the conference was intended to identify and address ways in which these identities are realised through visual representation. This correlates with VIAD’s core thematics which explore these transforming, negotiated, re-conceptualised and/or re-imagined identities from a primarily Pan-African, postcolonial perspective, whilst considering these as part of a broader postmodern paradigm. Within this framework, VIAD invited selected contributors to present papers, providing the following as points of entry:

 –       modes of visual production, particularly in relation to poststructuralist /postmodern /(post)feminist/posthuman forms of experience

–       intersecting areas of cultural, historical, social and ideological identities. These might include the constructions of gender and race, as well as effects of class, technology and consumer culture on identity formation

–       design and visual art practices/modes of visual production which deal with immigrant; diasporic; colonial;


postcolonial; racial; national and transnational identities (as well as others) with particular reference to how these are manifest within South African contexts;

–       how meaning is expressed in South African visual culture, and more specifically, in South African art and design practices

–       identity as expressed through modes of representation, or codes/signs, such as style and dress, with particular emphasis on South African modes of production

–       advertising and the construction of individual and social identities

–       intersections between South African cultural landscapes and identities as forms of wider community identification.

The line-up of presenters and the nature of their topics allowed for a rich diversity of approaches to the analysis of visual identities in representation. The conference included representatives from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Arts Department; University of South Africa, University of the North West, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Pretoria and The Design Centre, Greenside, Johannesburg.