2019 Program

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The Fairest Cape? An account of a Coloured

The Fairest Cape? An account of a Coloured

Roberta Joy Rich

Gallery 2
Opening 06.03.19 6-8pm
Artist Talks 28.03.19 6-7pm

In Johannesburg 2016, I visited a building (now a pending demolition site) once known as Auden House in the bustling city district of Braamfontein. Spilling out of a cupboard of broken light fittings and print paraphernalia were piles of framed publication covers published by the South African Institute of Race Relations dating from 1944 - 96, presenting loaded titles of texts, pamphlets and lectures ranging from The Church and Race Relations, Civil Rights and Present Wrongs, Democracy in Multi-Racial Societies, Vanishing Lands and Migrant Labour and Ras, Beskawing en Vooroodeel. ‘Coloured’ communities in southern Africa have for long been constructed as fundamentally “different” to their black brothers and sisters, where white colonial regime meticulously positioned ‘Coloured’ people to aspire to be like them, but never actually be in their position.

I returned to South Africa to search for meaning in the one archive I had literally stumbled upon, and to discover the other archive I know exists but was deliberately kept away from us.

Our rich diversity of many slave groups (some may say “mixed race”), alongside the contributing mechanics of colonisation, is central to understanding why psychologically many ‘Coloured’ people simultaneously acknowledge and negate their indigenous KhoiKhoi and San lineages.

What I came across was again a case of majority ‘white’ anthropologic and ethnographic researchers writing and speaking about ‘brown’ and ‘black’ communities without community involvement or their voices in positions of control.

This exhibition is a selection of works produced while on two research residencies in South Africa, beginning in Johannesburg, and concluding in Cape Town. 


Roberta Rich is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work responds to constructions of identity, often referencing her diaspora African identity and experiences. Utilising language and satire in her video, performance, installation and mixed-media projects, Rich draws from historical, socio-political and popular contemporary culture, to engage with notions of 'authentic' identity construction while ascertaining empowering forms of self-determination via her arts practice. Since completing her Master of Fine Arts at Monash University, Rich has exhibited projects in Melbourne, as well as interstate, and has been more recently working across Johannesburg and Cape Town. Rich is also part of the newly found collective Her Africa is Real. Recent shows include, Deny/Denial/Denied; Blak Dot Gallery, Melbourne (2017), One Colour at a Time: Contemporary Screen Prints; Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg (2017), M/other Land as part of Next Wave Festival at Arts House (2018), Transmissions; Gallery MOMO Cape Town, (2018) and an alumni of FCAC’s Emerging Cultural Leaders Program. Her recent residencies in South Africa were supported by NAVA’s Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship for Emerging Artists.

This project was assisted by The Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship. The program is administered by the National Association of the Visual Arts (NAVA).

Roberta Rich, Detail of Our Time, African Faces, African Unionism and Democracy, (from left to right, works in progress) 2018. Digital prints on acrylic with pine shelf, dimensions variable. Image Credit; Zelé Angelides.

Roberta Rich, Our Time, African Faces, African Unionism and Democracy, 2018. Digital prints on acrylic, each with pine shelf, dimensions 14 x 23cm each. All have edition 1/1 +AP. Image Credit; Christo Crocker.

Roberta Rich, Inside Auden House facing De Korte street, 2017, Digital Image. Image Credit; Roberta Joy Rich