Professor Berni Searle

Professor - Videography

Berni Searle works with lens-based media—photography, video, and film—to stage narratives connected to history, memory and place. Often politically and socially engaged, her work also draws on the universal emotions associated with vulnerability, loss and beauty.

She received her MFA from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town (1995). 

Solo exhibitions during 2011 included Shimmer at the Stevenson gallery, Cape Town and Interlaced which featured new commissioned work, opened at De Hallen in Bruges, Belgium and travelled to the Museum for Moderne Kunst Arnhem (MMKA) in the Netherlands and Frac Lorraine in Metz France.

Recent group exhibitions include a.o. Senses of Time: Video and Film-based works of Africa. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, USA (2015-2017)The film will always be you. Tate Modern. London, UK (2015); Chroma. Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town (2015), Earth Matters at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution (2013); Distance and Desire. Encounters with the African Archive. Part II: Contemporary Reconfirgurations at the Walther Collection Project Space, New York, USA (2012); invited guest artist at Dak’Art 2012 (Dakar Biennale), National Gallery, Dakar, Senegal (2012) and Cinema Remixed and Reloaded 2.0. Black women and the moving image since 1970. 11th Havana Biennal (2012).

Other group exhibitions include Figures and Fictions at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2011); She Devil at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome, MACRO (2011); The Dissolve, SITE Santa Fe, 8th International Biennial, Santa Fe, New Mexico, (2010) and Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010).

She has participated in the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1997) the 49th Venice Biennales (2001) and the 51st Venice Biennale (2005). She received the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art in 2003 and was an Artes Mundi short-listed artist in Cardiff, Wales (2004). In 2000 she was awarded the Minister of Culture Prize at the Dakar Biennale and the UNESCO/AICA Award at the Cairo Biennale (1998).

She was the recipient of the Rockefeller Bellagio Creative Artist Award for 2014, and won the Mbokodo award in 2015.

Solo Exhibitions

  • Black smoke rising trilogy. Ron Mandos gallery, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 25 February – 24 March 2012 (group) 24 March 2012
  • Shimmer. Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town. 26 May – 23 July 2011
  • Interlaced. Travelling solo exhibition with new commissioned work: De Hallen, the Belfry Tower, Bruges, Belgium, 18 April – June 2011
  • Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem (MMKA), Arnhem, the Netherlands, 9 July- 16 October 2011
  • Frac Lorraine, Metz, France. 21 May – 18 September 2011
  • Across Oceans. Transit Art Space. Stavanger, Norway 10 October- 23 November 2008
  • Day for Night. On the Edge, Stavanger 2008 EU project. Obrestad lighthouse, Norway 11 October 2008
  • Recent work. Michael Stevenson, Cape Town, SA. 4 September to 11 October 2008
  • Approach. Krannert Museum, Champaign, Illinois. August 31 – December 30 2007
  • Approach. Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, SA. November 2006 – January 2007
  • Approach. USF Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, Florida, USA. 27 October – 20 December 2006
  • Crush. Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town. SA. 20 September – 21 October 2006
  • To love, to fear, to leave. Performa05. Angel Orensanz Foundation, New York, USA. 14 November 2005
  • Berni Searle. 3 video works. BildMuseet, Umeå, Sweden. September 2005
  • About to forget. Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa. May 2005
  • Presence. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, USA. January 2005
  • Vapour. Aardklop festival invited artist. Potchefstroom, South Africa. 28 September – 2 October 2004
  • City of London Festival. Invited artist. Royal Exchange Building, Museum of London, Docklands Museum, London, UK. 21 June – 9 July 2004
  • Vapour. Michael Stevenson Contemporary, Cape Town, South Africa. February 2004
  • Dis/Colour. Morlan Gallery, Transylvania University, Lexington, KY, USA. 29 March – 26 April 2004
  • Float. Standard Bank Young Artist 2003 exhibition. Monument Gallery, Grahamstown, 27 June – 4 July 2003; South African National Gallery, Cape Town, 3 – 29 February 2004; Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, 18 May – 26 June 2004
  • Residency and solo exhibition. Kunst:Raum Sylt-Quelle, Rantum, Sylt, Germany. July – October 2003
  • The Space Between. Davis Museum and Cultural Centre, Boston, Mass., USA. 18 March – 8 June 2003
  • A Matter of Time. MATRIX programme. Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA., USA. 2 February – 23 March 2003
  • Berni Searle. Peres Projects, San Francisco, USA. 2002
  • Berni Searle. Seippel Gallery, Cologne, Germany. 2002
  • Still. Axis Gallery, New York, USA. September 2001
  • Colour Matters. Kunsthalle Stadgallerie, Osnabrück, Germany. June 2001
  • Work produced in residency. Inova (Institute of the Visual Arts), University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA. 10 December 1999 – 27 February 2000
  • Colour Me. Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet, Cape Town. 7 – 30 April 1999.
  • Illusions of Identity – Notions of Nationhood. MFA Graduate exhibition. Good Hope Gallery, The Castle, Cape Town, South Africa. 1995
  • Passing Through. Work completed in residency. Canberra Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. 1992

Group Exhibitions

  • Guest artist. Dak’Art 2012, Dakar Biennale. National Gallery, Dakar, Senegal. 11 May -20 June 2012
  • Cinema Remixed & Reloaded 2.0. Black Women and the moving image since 1970. 11th Havana Biennal. 11 May- 11 June 2012 (group)
  • Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography. Museum of Modern Art. New York. 7 May 2010- Spring 2011
  • Figures and Fictions. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 12 April – 17 July 2011
  • Space, Ritual, Absence: Liminality in South African Visual Art, FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg Bunting Road Campus, 10 March 2011
  • Variations. Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. 21 January –3 April 2011
  • Alterating Conditions: Performing Performance Art in South Africa, GoetheonMain, Johannesburg in collaboration with the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, 12 – 30 January 2011
  • The Underground, the Surface and the Edges. Video screening as part of exhibition Afropolis, Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum in Cologne, Germany, and the Collaborations/Articulations exhibition, Johannesburg. 22 January 2011 and 12 April 2011 respectively.
  • Events of Self: Portraiture and Social Identity. The Walther Collection, Ulm, Germany. 17 June 2010- 15 May 2011
  • The Dissolve. SITE Santa Fe, 8th International Biennial, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Opening 18 June 2010
  • SPace: Currencies in Contemporary African Art. Museum Africa, Newton, Johannesburg. 11 May -11 July 2010
  • Summer 2009/10: Projects. Michael Stevenson, Cape Town. 26 November 2009 -16 January 2010
  • Screening: Spirit of ’76 (7 October 2009 – 3 January 2010) and Seeking Refuge (6 January – 6 June 2010). Cantor Arts Centre, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.
  • An Imagined State. Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos. October 2009
  • Undercover: Performing and Transforming Black Identities. Spelman College Musuem of Fine Art, Atlanta, GA, USA. 10 September – 5 November 2009
  • A life less ordinary. Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, UK. 4 September – November 2009
  • La modernité dans l’art Africain d’aujourd’hui. Panafrican Cultural Festival, Algiers, Algeria. 5 July – September 2009
  • REBELLE. Art and Feminism 1969 –2009. Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem( MMKA), Arnhem, Netherlands. 30 May – 23 August 2009.
  • 10th Havana Biennial. Cuba. March 2009
  • Beauty and Pleasure in South African Contemporary Art. Stenersen Museum, Oslo, Norway. 5 February – 10 May 2009
  • Continental Rifts. Fowler Museum at UCLA. Los Angeles, California. February 2009
  • Transnational Convergences in African Digital Art, Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Canada. 14 November 2008
  • Traversiá. Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno (CAAM). Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands. 17 October 2008
  • On Reflection: women artists selected from the collections of Glynn Vivian Art Gallery and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, Wales. 5 July –14 September 2008
  • Home Lands- Land Marks. Haunch of Venison, London. 31 May – 5 July 2008
  • Disguise: The art of attracting and deflecting attention. Michael Stevenson, Cape Town, SA. 15 May-5 July 2008
  • Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body. Hood Museum of Art 1 April- 7 September 2008, Davis Museum, Wellesley College, Fall 2008, San Diego Museum of Art, Winter 2009
  • Cross-Currents in Recent Video Installation. Harn Museum. Florida. Summer 2008
  • Darkroom: Photography and New Media in South Africa 1950 – Present. Travelling exhibition. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, USA. 2008–2009


  • Creative Puma travel grant. 2010
  • Artes Mundi Shortlisted Artist. 2004
  • Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art. 2003
  • Civitella Ranieri Fellow. 2001
  • FNB Vita Award Finalist. 2000.
  • DAK’ART 2000 Minister of Culture Prize, Dakar Biennale. 2000
  • DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Contemporary Art Nominee. 2000
  • British Council Grant. Gasworks residency. 2000
  • UNESCO, in conjunction with the International Art Critics Association (AICA) Award. 7th International
  • Cairo Biennale. 1998.
  • MacIver Centre for Science and Development Scholarships. 1992 -1995.
  • DAAD scholarships. 1992 -1995.
  • ASATT Grant. Four month residency at the Canberra Institute of the Arts. Australian National University. 1992


  • Berni Searle .Sites of Refuge: A Photo- essay from Three Works. South Atlantic Quarterly. 109:3, Summer 2010 (publication)
  • Young, hip…and sussed. In .za Giovane Arte Dal Sudafrica. Published by Palazzo Delle Papesse, Centro Arte Contemporanea, Sienna, Italy. 2008 (publication in catalogue)
  • Berni Searle. An Illustrated talk. In Presence. Speed Art Museum. 2006 (presentation and publication in catalogue)
  • “In your culture?” Duality and Ambiguity in the work of Berni Searle. Annual Lehman Lecture Guest. Bowdoin College. Maine. 31 March 2003. (presentation)
  • Discerning the Diaspora. Symposium. University of South Florida, Tampa. 18 October 2002 (presentation)
  • Paper presented at the conference organized by AFAA entitled: African Art and the African Diaspora: Agenda for the 21st century on the panel dealing with Art Education, Residencies, and Workshops. Paris. 2000. (presentation)
  • ‘Julle Moet Nou Trek’ in Bloodlines/Bloedlyn. Lien Botha (ed), Cape Town, 1999 (publication in catalogue)
  • Paper presented the International Symposium in conjunction with the 7th International Cairo Biennale. 1997. (presentation)
  • Identity and Beyond. Paper prepared for the 16th Annual Congress of the Australian and Pacific African Studies Association. Sydney, Australia.1993


  • Various private collections.
  • The Walther Collection, Germany. 2010
  • Schachat Collection, South Africa. 2009-
  • Museum of Modern Art. New York. 2007
  • Brooklyn Museum of Art. Elizabeth Sackler. 2007
  • University of South Africa (Unisa). 2005
  • Tollman Foundation. 2005
  • South African Parliament. 2005
  • Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, USA. 2005
  • Artes Mundi. National Museum and Gallery of Wales, Cardiff. 2004
  • Durban Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa. 2004
  • Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa. 2003
  • Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa. 2003, 2004
  • DaimlerChrysler Collection, Germany. 2003
  • NMAC Montenmedio Arte Contemporaneo, Vejer de la Frontera, Spain. 2003
  • Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA, USA. 2003
  • Hood Museum, Dartmouth College. USA. 2003
  • Collection Helga de Alvear. Madrid, Spain. 2002
  • BHP Billiton Collection, South Africa. 2001, 2004
  • Costa Reis, Angola. 2001
  • Hans Bogatzke Collection, Germany. 2001
  • Buhl Foundation, New York, USA. 2001
  • South African National Gallery. Cape Town, South Africa. 2000
  • Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC. USA. 2000
  • NORAD, Oslo, Norway. 1999
  • Australian Parliament. Anti-apartheid lobby group. Canberra, Australia. 1992


  • Interlaced. (2011) catalogue
    Published by Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem/46 Nord 6 Est Frac Lorraine and Cultuurcentrum Brugge. Essays, in English, French and Dutch, are by Julie L McGee and Michel Dewilde, with an introduction by the curators of the three institutions, Dewilde, Béatrice Josse and Mirjam Westen.
  • Across Oceans. (2008) catalogue
    Published by Transit Art Space and Ha gamle prestegard, to coincide with a solo exhibition at Transit Art Space, Stavanger, Norway and the exhibition of new work commissioned in a lighthouse in Obrestad in October 2008.
  • BERNI SEARLE Recent work 2007/08. (2008) catalogue
    Published to coincide with a solo exhibition at Michael Stevenson in September 2008, which featured a number of new commissioned video works and prints, with contributions by Tamar Garb, Annie Coombes, Gabeba Baderoon, Gavin Jantjes, Tracy Murinik, Marion Arnold and Elvira Dyangani Ose.
  • Approach. (2006) catalogue
    This monograph is published jointly by Michael Stevenson, the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum and Johannesburg Art Gallery, and accompanied exhibitions at the three galleries in 2006/7.
  • To love, to fear, to leave. (2005) brochure
    An installation at the Angel Orensanz Foundation Centre, presented by the Museum of African Art as part of PERFORMA 05.
  • Presence 7: Berni Searle. (2005) brochure
    Published by the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, USA. 2005
  • About to forget. (2005) catalogue
    Published by Michel Stevenson
  • Vapour. (2004) catalogue
    Published by Michel Stevenson
  • Berni Searle/MATRIX 202 A Matter of Time. (2003) brochure
    Published by the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives, Berkeley, CA
  • Float. Standard Bank Young Artist. (2003) catalogue
    Published to coincide with the 2003 Standard Bank Young Artist exhibition, this monograph features an in-depth essay by Johannesburg-based academic Rory Bester and reproductions of major bodies of work from the Colour me and Discoloured series through to the video Home and away (2003)
  • Fresh. Berni Searle (2003) catalogue
    The Fresh residency and research project saw seven young South African artists participating in month-long residencies at the South African National Gallery. Fresh was funded by the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund through an award made to Marlene Dumas.