Art historian and lecturer Zamansele Nsele has been an avid reader and scholar since the day her mother enrolled her into pre-school at age four.
Now 32, she is an expert in the history of art and is beginning to lecture on the subject around the world. She can be found at the University of Johannesburg as a lecturer at the faculty of art, design and architecture. She has just completed her PhD dissertation in art history & visual culture, addressing post-apartheid nostalgia in contemporary art.
There are still very few black female scholars in African art history, so the contribution of this young black female scholar promises an exciting future for the field.
How apartheid influenced art or was represented in it is a subject close to her heart. “I was born in Pietermaritzburg in 1986, when legalised apartheid was taking its last breath,” she says. “I am proud to say I am a first-generation university graduate. For the five years that I have been lecturing I have successfully supervised 16 honours and master’s students, whilst balancing my own research and writing my doctoral dissertation.”
She now plans to convert her dissertation into a book. “This is an important step because there have been virtually no art books single-authored by black female art historians in South Africa,” she says. “I am planning to fill this gap as I believe it is important for students to be exposed to black women who are producers of knowledge in my field.”
Nsele has presented her work at Vanderbilt and Rutgers Universities in the USA, the University of East Anglia in the UK and the University of Ghana in Accra. She was also a guest speaker at the Museum Dialogues Conference hosted by the University of Namibia and the Goethe Institute.
She writes regularly about African art for The Journalist and has been published in Elle Decoration, the Journal of African and Asian Studies and various other magazines. “In my writing, I strive to connect art practice to current national questions. For instance, my latest article is on landscape art and the land question,” she says. She lists a career highlight as dining with Professor Hortense Spillers, an intellectual giant in black feminist thought. “As a young scholar I consider my myself privileged to have shared my research ideas with her.” —I