Emeritus Associate Professor Virginia MacKenny

Emeritus Associate Professor

Virginia MacKenny completed her BAFA at the University of Natal in 1980 and her MA in Gender Studies in 2001 at UKZN, Durban. She has received a number of awards including the Volkskas Atelier Award (1991), the Ampersand Fellowship in New York (2004) and a Donald Gordon Creative Fellow Award (2010). She is an independent critic and curator. In 2006 she co-curated, with Gabi Ncgobo, ‘Second to None’ – an exhibition celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the 1956 Women’s March on Pretoria to protest the pass laws – at Iziko South African National Gallery. A previous KZN editor for www.artthrob.co.za, the first internet site on contemporary South African art, she was also an invited writer for Sophie Perryer’s 10 Years 100 Artists – Art in a Democratic South Africa (2004). She supports contemporary visual arts discourse in SA by writing catalogue essays and for the quarterly Art South Africa. She has presented papers on aspects of South African contemporary art production at the Tate Modern, London, and in conferences in Mumbai, Paris and Madrid. Often a judge on national competitions she was a selector for Spier Contemporary 2007.

MacKenny is interested in contemporary South African art with a special emphasis on painting, video art and performance art with particular reference to gender and environmental issues. In 2010 she was a co-founding member of COPART, an artists’ initiative concerned with raising awareness for climate change at COP17 (the UN Conference of the Parties for discussion on climate change held in Durban that year). Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Foam Along the Waterline’ (2008), at UCT’s Irma Stern Museum, ‘Crossing’ (2009)at David Krut Projects, Johannesburg and ‘Waymarker’ (2012) David Krut Projects, Cape Town. ‘Waymarker’ was the culmination of a 700km walk across France along the Chemin de St Jacques and embodied a literal act of grounding in an act dedicated “to the Earth and all living beings on her”. MacKenny is currently creating an artist’s book based on her walk as well researching for a book on artists in Southern Africa engaged with environmental issues.


  • 2010 Donald Gordon Creative Arts Award
  • 2004 Ampersand Fellowship, New York
  • 1996 All Things Digital – 1st prize
  • 1991 Volkskas Atelier – 1st prize
  • 1979 New Signatures – merit award winner


Catalogues/books/selected articles:

  • 2013 ‘Waymarker – A Painter’s Notes’ Art South Africa Issue 11.3
  • 2011 ‘Bearded Ladies’ in Pogonology – Malcolm Payne: Paintings 2007-2010 Axe Age Press, Cape Town (p10-17)(ISBN 978-0-7992-2474-0)
  • 2011 ‘Traces of Presence’ catalogue essay Stephen Inggs Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town Press, Cape Town (ISBN No. ISBN 978-0-620-51872-7)
  • 2010 ‘Awake to What Is’ in Spier Contemporary 2010 catalogue
  • 2010 ‘Topographies of History and Place’ for Thomas Barry’s ‘Hearts and Minds’ (ISBN 978-0-9826647-1-1) for Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Hall Street Gallery, 212 W. Hall St., Savannah, Ga. For symposium: Africa on My Mind: Contemporary Art, Home and Abroad
  • 2008 ‘Foam Along the Waterline’ catalogue essay for own work
  • 2008 ‘Marlene Dumas – Returning Home’ in NKA Journal of Contemporary African Art, Number 22/23, Spring/ Summer 2008, Africana Studies and Research Center Cornell University, New York (p 146-151) (ISSN1075-7163)
  • 2007 ‘A Selective Journey’ catalogue essay for Spier Contemporary 2007
  • 2007 ‘The Constructed View’ catalogue essay for Svea Josephy’s Twin Towns exhibition at Bell-Roberts Contemporary Art Gallery, Cape Town (ISBN 978-0-620-39982-1) (p.2-6)
  • 2007 ‘Jeremy Wafer – Tracking’ PDF catalogue essay for Jeremy Wafer, New Work at Goodman Gallery Cape, Cape Town
  • 2007 ‘Come – Recent Work by Michaelis Masters Students’ catalogue essay for Michaelis Masters students exhibition at KZNSA Gallery, Durban (ISBN 978-0-620-38370-7) (p.4-7)
  • 2007 “Jane Alexander: ‘Security/Säkerhet’” catalogue insert for Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, (August25 – November 25 2007), Rethinking Dissent – on the Limitations of Politics and the Possibilities of Resistance, curated by Joa Ljungberg and Edi Muka. An extract from text can be found on: http://www.rodasten.se/biennalenslista_mer.asp?menuaction=8&dot=81&id=123&sprak=english)
  • 2007 ‘Primary Faith’ and ‘Spoils of History’ catalogue essays on Greg Streak and Ledelle Moe for Washington, USA
  • 2006 ‘Toys for Boys’ in Powerplay catalogue essay for Johann van der Schjiff solo exhibition, Bell-Roberts Gallery, Cape Town
  • 2006 ‘Painting Ourselves Out of a Corner’ catalogue essay for Painting Now travelling exhibition of contemporary South African painting for KZNSA Gallery, Durban and UNISA Gallery, Pretoria
  • 2005 ‘Jeremy Wafer’ in Tropic – Jeremy Wafer supporting publication for RMIT School of Art Gallery, RMIT University, Melbourne
  • 2004 Brett Kebble Art Award 2004 catalogue essay ‘Configuring Culture – Art is What You Make of It’, Cape Town
  • 2004 10 Years 100 Artists – Art in a Democratic South Africa edited by Sophie Perryer (invited writer with essays on Jeremy Wafer, Clive van den Berg, Diane Victor, Paul Edmunds, Steven Cohen, Willem Boshoff and Andries Botha) HIV(E) catalogue essay ‘The Art of the Matter’, curated by Greg Streak


  • 2011 Grounding Ourselves at ‘Reading Nature’ conference, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  • 2011 Vacated Spaces – South African Watercolour for ‘Space, Ritual, Absence: Liminality in South African Visual Art’ Colloquium presented by the Research Centre Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD), Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA), University of Johannesburg
  • 2010 Blue – a Shifting Horizon invited speaker for Colour Colloquium, Fine Art Department, University of Rhodes, Grahamstown
  • 2010 Painting – the Expanded Field for ‘Pre-Post-Per-Form – a Colloquium to Explore Interdisciplinary and Performance Art’ Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA), UCT, Cape Town
  • 2009 Contemporary Painting – Confronting Tradition for Friends of the Michaelis Collection
  • 2006 The Earth is Flat – Prevarications from a Precarious Edge invited speaker on own work in ‘Via Mumbai – Multiple Cultures in a Globalising World’ at Mohile Parikh Centre for the Visual Arts, Mumbai, India
  • 2006 Inside Out: Inner Needs and Exterior Demands in the Training of Young Artists in a Young South African Democracy invited keynote paper at International Association of Art Critics (AICA), Paris
  • 2002 Materiality and Identity in South African Contemporary Sculpture Royal College of Art, London Indecent Public Exposure – Steven Cohen and the Transgression of Boundaries paper delivered at ‘Beyond the Gallery – Art in Public Spaces’ conference, a Public Eye event at Cape Technikon, Cape Town
  • 2000 Re-Presenting Identities – Performance Art in South Africa Post-Apartheid, AICA Conference, Tate Modern, London
  • 2000 Centering Ourselves Marginally/Marginally Centring Ourselves, at ‘Open Circuit’ – a Pulse initative conference in collaboration with RAIN (Rijksakademie International Network), Technikon Natal, DurbanSelected texts are available online, visit this Virginia MacKenny page.


  • Iziko National Gallery, Cape Town
  • University of Cape Town collection
  • Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg
  • Durban University of Technology, Durban
  • Durban Art Gallery, Durban
  • Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle, (S.A.)

Corporate collections:

  • Anglo-American, Johannesburg
  • SASOL, Johannesburg
  • SANLAM, Cape Town

Selected Exhibitions

  • 2013 Velvet curated by Chris Diedericks for KKNK, Oudtshoorn Invited artist on Believe Half of What You See And None of What You Hear, conceived by Georgia Kotretsos, as part of the project Sous nos Yeux (part 1) curated by Abdellah Karroum at La Kunsthalle of Mulhouse, in collaboration with the University Haute-Alsace, France.
  • 2012 Waymarker solo, David Krut Projects, Montebello Design Centre, Cape Town
  • 2010 1910-2010: From Pierneef to Gugulective curator Riason Naidoo iZiko National Gallery, Cape Town
  • 2010 Lie of the Land: Representations of the South African Landscape curator Michael Godby, Iziko Michaelis Collection, Old Town House, Cape Town
  • 2009 Crossing solo, David Krut, Johannesburg
  • 2008 Foam Along the Waterline solo, Irma Stern Museum, University of Cape Town
  • 2007 Right Before Your Eyes invited group show KZNSA Gallery, Durban
  • 2006 Artworks in Progress, staff show Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, Cape Town
  • 2006 ABSA Atelier 20 Year Retrospective, Klein Karoo Kunstfestival (KKNK), Oudtshoorn, Karoo
  • 2005 Surface, invited artist for group painting exhibition with Moshekwa Langa, Luan Nel, Dorothy Kreutzfeldt and others curated by Lara Riviera at Franchise gallery, Johannesburg
  • 2003 Videobrasil – invited artist for South African section curated by Miguel Petchovsky and Andries Botha, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • 2003 Sleepers – Sightlines solo N.S.A. Gallery, Durban
  • 2003 The Orion Project video/dance piece with Lliane Loots (choreographer), Elisabeth Sneddon Theatre, University of Natal, Durban
  • 2002 Cityscapes video/dance piece with Jay Pather (choreographer), Durban Art Gallery, Durban
  • 2002 Untold Tales of Magic: Abelumbi travelling nationally to Durban Art Gallery, Durban, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg and others
  • 2000 Jabulisa 2000 – contemporary KwaZulu Natal art, Tatham – Pietermaritzburg (touring provincially)
  • 1999 ABSA Atelier Retrospective, Johannesburg
  • 1998 Sky Journeys solo show NSA, Durban and Harris Gallery, Cape Town
  • 1997 Present Tense: Photoworks from South Africa, Andrew Grant Gallery, Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh
  • 1996 Vita Art Now, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg
  • 1995-6 Gay Rights, Rites, Re-writes, selected National touring show, Martin Melkhuis, Cape Town, Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein, Gertrude Posel Gallery, University of Witswatersrand, Johannesburg
  • 1995 Objects of Desire, Thompson Gallery, Africus Bienniale fringe, Johannesburg
  • 1995 Past Forms, solo exhibition, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg
  • 1991 Volkskas Atelier, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg