SOAS University of London

Africa Section, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Visual Cultures in South Africa: Past and Present

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2018/2019
Taught in:
Full Year

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  • a sound knowledge of the history of visual cultures (primarily film, but also television, photography, visual art) in South Africa in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries
  • a sound knowledge of how visual cultural products, such as film and photography, have been used – by South African and non-South African artists, and by the audiences of these works – to imagine the country (particularly in terms of race, but also gender and class)
  • a sound knowledge of the history of twentieth and twenty-first century South Africa
  • strong critical and analytical skills in relation to cultural products, and particularly visual and screen-based products
  • strong understanding of current circulating theories in the disciplines relevant to the course, e.g. Cultural Studies, Visual Studies, (South) African Film Studies


A total of 22 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 2 hour seminar.  There will be a 2 hour film screening on this module per week.

Method of assessment

A 500 word reaction paper/podcast to be submitted day 5, week 5, term 1 (5%); a 500 word reaction paper/podcast to be submitted day 5, week 10, term 1 (5%); one 3,000 word essay to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 2 (30%); a 500 word reaction paper/podcast to be submitted day 5, week 5, term 2 (5%); a 500 word reaction paper/podcast to be submitted day 5, week 10, term 2 (5%); a 5,000 word essay to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 3 (50%).

Suggested reading

A more comprehensive reading list will be made available to students on this course at the beginning of term.  

  • Balseiro, Isabel and Ntongela Masilela, eds (2003). To Change Reels: Film and Film
    Culture in South Africa. Detroit: Wayne State UP.
  • Bickford-Smith, Vivian and Richard Mendelsohn (2007). Black and White in Colour:
    African History on the Screen. Oxford: James Currey.
  • Bordwell, David and Kristin Thompson, eds (1997). Film Art: An Introduction. Fifth
    Edition. New York: McGraw Hill.
  • Braudy, Leo and Marshall Cohen, eds (2004). Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory
    Readings. Oxford: OUP.
  • Davis, Peter (1996). In Darkest Hollywood: Exploring the jungles of cinema’s South
    Africa. Randburg: Ravan Press.
  • Diawara, Manthia (1992). African Cinema. Indianapolis: Indiana UP.
  • Dovey, Lindiwe (2009). African film and literature: adapting violence to the screen. New
    York: Columbia UP.
  • Maingard, Jacqueline (2007). South African National Cinema. New York: Routledge.
  • McCluskey, Audrey Thomas (2009). The Devil you Dance With: Film Culture in the New
    South Africa. Urbana: Illinois University Press.
  • Ndebele, Njabulo (1994). South African Literature and Culture: Rediscovery of the
    Ordinary. Manchester: Manchester UP.
  • Saks, Lucia (2010). Cinema in a Democratic South Africa: The Race for Representation.
    Bloomington: Indiana UP.
  • Tomaselli, Keyan (2006). Encountering Modernity: Twentieth Century South African
    Cinemas. Rozenberg: UNISA Press.
  • Ukadike, Nwachukwu Frank (2002). Questioning African Cinema: Conversations with
    Filmmakers. Minneapolis and London: U of Minnesota P.
  • Skin (2009)
  • De Voortrekkers (1916) and Siliva the Zulu (1927)
  • Jim Comes to Joburg (1949)
  • Cry, the Beloved Country (1951)
  • Drum (2005)
  • Come Back, Africa (1959)
  • Last Grave at Dimbaza (1974) and Seapoint Days (2008)
  • Cry Freedom (1987)
  • Mapantsula (1988)
  • Invictus (2009)
  • Zulu Love Letter (2004)
  • Fools (1997)
  • Disgrace (2008)
  • Tsotsi (2006)

Steps for the Future films

  • Son of Man (2006)
  • District 9 (2009)
  • Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon (2007)
  • Yizo Yizo television series (2004)
  • Animated films of William Kentridge


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules