Donovan Ward

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globalisation, history, identity, memory, transformation
Visual Arts (collage, graffiti, installation art, land art, painting, sculpture)
Africa, Southern
South Africa
Cape Town
created on:
July 17, 2003
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Donovan Ward


A world of constant shifts and flux

Born in 1962, South African artist Donovan Ward lives and works in Cape Town. Labelled as ‘coloured’ under apartheid, Ward found himself an outsider in both communities and his work reflects an exploration of contradictory and multiple identities within the diversity of African experience. He is interested in the paradoxes of a shifting world in which memory and fragmentary narratives of past lives juxtapose forces of globalisation, mass media and new technologies.
South African artist Donovan Ward was born in 1962 and lives and works in Cape Town. His artist’s statement outlines his interest in the ‘diversity of African experience’. This arises from his own life both during and post-apartheid. As he says, ‘My own memories and experiences as a South African national labelled by the apartheid state as “coloured”, “non-white”, “kleurling” and, conversely, within my own community as “whitey” or “Blanco”, informs my exploration outside of the confines of these narrow labels which all just referred to skin colour alone’.

Ward’s intention is ‘to explore local shifting, contradictory and multiple identities which are not bounded, but identities which also influence each other.’ Through his work, Ward aims to show ‘that issues of race are about both similarities as well as differences’.

Donovan Ward has exhibited visual works using a range of materials and techniques on themes of memory, history, identity and transformation. The work, ‘The Genocide of Memory’, a portrait based on a colonial etching of a bushman, reconstructed in ash and burnt bone surrounded by fragments of text, images and found objects was shown at the Dakar Biennial in Senegal in 2002.

In District 6, Cape Town, Ward made a site specific installation for the 1997 District Six Public Sculpture Festival commemorating a community uprooted and relocated during South Africa’s apartheid past. Another area of interest is globalisation with images using logos and masks created with American corporate and entertainment imagery.

Donovan Ward was one of the guest artists from South Africa selected for the ‘Spirit of the Place’ exhibition which toured in Wales, UK and South Africa in 2001-03.

Artist’s statement:

“It is not what they built. It is what they knocked down. It is not the houses. It is the spaces between the houses. It is not the streets that exist. It is the streets that no longer exist.”
(from ‘A German Requiem’, translated by James Fenton)

All we have left to construct the story of lives once lived are fragments of the past. Through omissions, suppression and other forms of control by those that wield power, only disjointed and incomplete narratives remain. Inter-penetrating as well as superimposed over this, new identities are being formed through the breakdown of old boundaries. This is occurring through the introduction of new technologies, forms of communication and economics, as well as through the migrations of people. In a world of constant shifts and flux, in a world becoming increasingly homogeneous on some levels and paradoxically fragmented on others, there seems little resistance to globalisation.

The intention of my work is an exploration of colonial and African power relations, which persist into the present in new forms both locally and globally.

I attempt to achieve this through referring to my own communities’ experiences, struggles and memories of living under Apartheid as well as through the use of imagery from history, popular culture and the mass media. I contrast images which are mass-produced on a global scale against the more personal and localised. The materials I use, which merge, flow into and displace each other, range from illuminated Perspex through to cement, ash, rust, lichen, acrylics and de-collage amongst others.
Author: Judith Staines


Donovan Ward lives and works in Cape Town. He studied at the Ruth Prowse School of Art and started practicing full time as an artist in 1994.He has participated in several group exhibitions and in 1994 was a finalist in the Volkskas Atelier competition.

In 2002 He participated in the Dakar Biennale and served an artist residency in Wales. More recently in 2005 Donovan, in collaboration with Paul Hendricks was commissioned by the Provincial Government and City Council of Cape Town to design a Memorial to the Gugulethu Seven .In 2005 he also had a solo exhibition titled: Barbie Bartmann Homecoming Queen.

Donovan Ward explores the fragmentary and competitive attributes of history and global culture. Using found and made objects, images, text and paint he addresses issues of globalisation and how history and technology contribute to change.


Mask 1

Acrylic on wood, 45cm x 21cm. One of a series of 11 masks exhibited as part of a solo exhibition titled Ash, Dust and Trade Marks, held in 2002. Part of a logo made up of a portrait of Colonel Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, was superimposed onto a carved wooden mask.

Masked Memories

1998-2002 Illuminated perspex, ash, dust, rust stains, collage, paint flakes and cement on board, 122cm x 122cm. An illuminated Perspex ´mask´, bearing the markers of global culture and technology is superimposed over an abraded textured background.

Mickey Mimic

Collage, transparent perspex, vinyl ink and cement on board A translucent image of Mickey Mouse was superimposed over a faded and fragmentary portrait of a local celebrity.

The Genocide of Memory & Theme of the Forgotten People

Two mixed media portraits based on colonial etchings of bushmen. The portraits, constructed in ash and burnt bone fragments on cemented backgrounds, are surrounded by fragmentary and faded texts, images and found objects. These two works were exhibited at the Dakar Biennale in Senegal in 2002.

The Dismembered Body

Materials: ash, coal, found and fabricated objects and photocopies. Description: A site-specific installation/low relief sculpture. Approximately 2m x 10m. An image derived from bushman rock art was marked on the landscape of District Six as a commemorative gesture to a community that was uprooted and relocated during South Africa´s apartheid past. In 1996 the district was declared white and cleared of its residents. Their homes were demolished. The work formed part of the District Six Public Sculpture Festival in 1997.


Exhibition / Installation
2005 Gugulethu 7 Memorial, Gugulethu, Cape Town, a Joint Provincial Government and City Council Project \in collaboratin with Paul Hendricks 2004 Art Cool, LG electronics 2002 Book cover, The International Labour Resource and Information Group 2001 Returning the Gaze, Billboard, Langa, Cape Town, Commissioned by Blac for the City of Cape Town 2001 Mural, Workers World Radio Productions \in collaboration with Selvin November 1999 Anti-Racism Mural, Lansdowne Library, Lansdown, Cape Town \in collaboration with artists and learners 1995 Right to Work Mural, WLP, Cape Town


Exhibition / Installation
2005 University of South Africa, Pretoria Private collections in South Africa, Holland, Germany, Italy and Australia


Published Written
2005 Art South Africa Vol.04 Issue 01 Spring 2005 Botaki Exhibition 3 Catalogue 2004 Upfront and Personal, Exhibition Catalogue 2004 Botaki Exhibition Catalogue 2004 Art Cool Exhibition Catalogue


Exhibition / Installation
2006 20 Artists 06, Art on Paper Gallery, Johannesburg 2004 Upfront and Personal, South African National Gallery, Cape Town 2004 Gender and Visuality, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town 2003 ´Supermarket´, Klein Karoo Nationale Kunstefees 2002 ´DAK´ART 2002 Biennale´, Dakar, Senegal 2001-2003 ´Spirit of the Place´, travelling exhibition, Wales, UK and South Africa 2000 ´Returning the Gaze´, One City Festival, public art project, Cape Town 1999 ´Prophecy 2000´, 3rd I Gallery, Cape Town 1998 ´Dis Nag´, South African Cultural History Museum, Cape Town


Exhibition / Installation
2005 Barbie Bartmann: Homecoming Queen, Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town 2002 ´Ash, Dust and Trade Marks´, Bell-Roberts Gallery, Cape Town 1998 ´Residues and Emergencies´, Mau Mau Gallery, Cape Town


2002 Cape Tercentenary Foundation Grant
2002 Spirit of the Place workshop, Wales, UK
1995 Thupelo Regional Workshop, Cape Town, South Africa
1993 ´The Art of Peace´, 1st Prize, Seeff Trust Art Gallery, Cape Town



Contemporary art magazine, South Africa.
Mask I
Shopsteward Barbie
Masked Memories (detail)
The Gugulethu Seven Memorial
Gay Barbie