Prof Ruth Simbao

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Ruth Simbao is the DSI/NRF SARChI Chair in Geopolitics and the Arts of Africa and a Professor in the Fine Art Department at Rhodes University, South Africa. She runs the Arts of Africa and Global Souths research programme, which comprises the SARChI Chair funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the National Research Foundation (NRF); PROSPA (Publishing and Research of the South: Positioning Africa) funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Art POWA network. Simbao is a core researcher in the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence, which is a Rhodes collaboration with the University of Lagos (Nigeria), Moi University (Kenya), Joseph Ki-Zerbo University (Burkina Faso), and Bayreuth University (Germany).

Simbao received her PhD from the History of Art and Architecture Department at Harvard University in 2008, and was an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Postdoctoral Fellow as part of the Humanities in Africa programme in 2010. In 2002 she received a Harvard University Teaching Award as a Teaching Fellow, and was the recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award at Rhodes University in 2009.

Her recent research interests include contemporary art with a particular focus on Africa; the geopolitics of art and society; Africa–China and the arts; ‘strategic southernness’ and global souths; theories of ‘place’, contra-flow diasporas, cosmolocalism, the power of small spaces, modest gestures, faux pas and failures; artists’ responses to xenophobia; contemporary cultural festivals and globalisation; performance theory and site-situational art, and a geopolitics of knowledge.

Recent curated exhibitions include Thania Petersen: Between land and a raised foot (2019), Bright Ackwerh: Where de choy dey? (2018), Converge (2018, curated with Brunn Kramer), Consuming Us at the Cape Town Art Fair (2016, curated with Azu Nwagbogu), SLIP: Mbali Khoza and Igshaan Adams (2014), the performance art programme BLIND SPOT at the National Arts Festival (2014), and Making Way: Contemporary Art from South Africa and China at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg (2013) and the National Arts Festival in Makhanda (2012) (

Simbao has presented her work in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, China, Hong Kong, Canada, the USA, the UK, France, New Zealand, Poland, Australia, Germany and Switzerland,  and her work has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Mandarin and French. In 2016 Simbao joined the editorial consortium of the African Arts journal that is associated with UCLA and distributed by MIT Press ( She founded the annual PROSPA Publishing Workshops which have so far collaborated with Makerere University (Uganda), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (Ghana), and the University of Lagos (Nigeria) ( She also founded the Residency for Artists and Writers (RAW) programme ( that to date has hosted artists and writers from South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Germany.



Last Modified: Wed, 05 Feb 2020 13:33:01 SAST