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Prof Lize van Robbroeck explores issues of colonial heritage and race in visual arts
Author: Corporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Alec Basson]
Published: 16/09/2022

​​Prof Lize van Robbroeck from the Department of Visual Arts at Stellenbosch University recently delivered her inaugural lecture titled, 'Art and the Legacies of Whiteness at Stellenbosch University's Visual Arts Department'. She spoke to the Corporate Communication and Marketing Division about how her work explores issues of colonial heritage and race in visual arts.

Tell us more about your research and why you became interested in this specific field.

I have worked with race-critical theory and discourse analysis since my PhD, which was on the critical reception of black artistic modernism in South Africa by white art historians and critics. I subsequently developed an interest in settler colonial studies and psychoanalytic theory, both of which I apply to the question of how white South African visual artists deal with colonial heritage and race in their work. More recently, I started working with feminist new materialism (a discipline that focuses on the material and avoids binary oppositions such as mind-body, nature-culture and human-nonhuman) and other ecocritical theories to write about artists whose work explore the long-term consequences of a Western episteme (i.e. a Western-based system of knowledge, ideas and assumptions) that led to this current crisis of the Anthropocene (the current geological era where human activities are profoundly changing the natural world).  

How would you describe the relevance of your work?

My work is relevant because this is a decolonial moment in the world's history, which requires a lot of self-reflection from white artists and scholars.

Can you tell us more about the impact of your research?

My work is largely referenced by scholars who research the legacies of colonialism in South African art, but also more widely, by authors who write about race, nationalism and visual culture in the former settler colonies.

Which aspects of your work do you enjoy the most?

I love teaching and writing, but most of all I love reading.

The pandemic has changed the way we work and live. What has kept you motivated during these times?

I found the last few years very difficult, for personal reasons, but also very rewarding, insofar as the struggles we all went through collectively caused me to re-think our relationship to other planetary forces and life-forms in rich and rewarding ways.

Tell us something exciting about yourself that people would not expect.

My favourite activity is walking with my dogs. I can walk for hours and hours and love every moment. Others may not think this is terribly exciting, but for me it is!

How do you spend your free time away from lectures and research?

I like reading, camping and walking.