Doctoral research. My SSHRC-funded doctoral research explored the possibilities and limitations of art education in South Africa, focusing on young people in after-school and community settings. At the heart of this work rests my interest in critical discourses on youth as cultural producers, issues of ownership, commodification, expertise, and collaboration. Questions on how community practices and knowledge production might inform the development of responsive educational policy and curricula guide my research. The fieldwork took place in a rural area where I worked with learners (from 8 to 16 years old) developing art practices using locally available resources. The asset-based approach aimed to address divisions of race, class, and geography created by the apartheid legacy. While national curriculum reform is ongoing, the creation of relevant content in the current neoliberal context is challenging and many students are denied opportunities for artistic expression and learning. My dissertation used a postcolonial feminist framework to invoke methods of community art education and critical ethnography. In addition, I explored theories and practices of rural development, ethical research in the Global South, as well as the challenges of working in a context deeply affected by poverty, structural racism, anti-child bias, systemic violence, and HIV and AIDS. This research demonstrated that young people’s art making is shaped by and informs contextually bound social and relational processes. In places where young people are consistently marginalized, multimodal art offers both a platform for youth agency and a means to engage with the complexity of issues in their lives.
Current research. My postdoctoral research extends my dissertation project and involves the integration of art education, critical media literacy, community development, and knowledge mobilization. It focuses on supporting young aspiring artists through hands-on skills development and connecting them to other knowledgeable people, such as teachers, artisans, and elders. These intergenerational connections will be established via cellphone networks and social media platforms. This project uses an asset-based approach, which aims to facilitate creative practices amongst youth interested in diverse art forms such as ceramics, mixed media sculpture, and fibre arts. As a way to grow creative communities, this research also investigates the creation of cellphone accessible videos, gifs, and websites to establish and maintain safe, collaborative spaces where participants can develop sustainable art practices. A component of this project is the creation of physical and e-books made “by children for children” that can be self-published through cell phones using Wattpad or other similar story sharing platforms. This endeavour is intended to respond, not only to the general shortage of learning materials, but also to better reflect the lived realities of indigenous South Africans in educational settings.