Ruth Simbao is a Professor in the Fine Art Department at Rhodes University, South Africa, and teaches Art History and Visual Culture. Her research interests include contemporary art with a particular focus on Africa, the geopolitics of art and society, geopolitics in relation to biennialisation, ‘strategic southernness’ and the Global South, theories of ‘place’, contra-flow diasporas, cosmopolitanism and cosmolocalism, redefinitions of ‘the local’, the power of small spaces and modest gestures, artists’ responses to xenophobia, China-Africa relations and the arts, contemporary cultural festivals and globalisation, performance theory and live art, the performance of heritage in Zambia, and site-situational art.
Simbao received her PhD from Harvard University’s Department of History of Art and Architecture 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.
She has received a number of research and travel grants from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Getty Foundation, the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation, the College Art Association, the American Social Science Research Council, the Jennifer Oppenheimer Foundation, Norton, the Canada Council of the Arts, Harvard University (History of Art and Architecture, African and African-American Studies, Film Studies and the Graduate Student Council), the National Research Foundation (South Africa), the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, the National Arts Council, Rhodes University, and the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council.
In recent years Simbao founded the following research initiatives, projects and networks: Visual and Performing Arts of Africa (ViPAA) (2011 to present), Residencies for Artists and Writers (RAW) (2014 to present), and Art & Culture: Writers in Africa (ACWA) (2015).
She has published in various journals including African Arts, Art South Africa, NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art, JACANA: Journal of African Culture and New Approaches, Third Text, Kronos: Southern African Histories, Parachute, Mix, Lola, De Arte, Image & Text, Social Dynamics and the International Journal of African Historical Studies.
Recent curatorial projects include SLIP: Mbali Khoza and Igshaan Adams, the performance art programme BLIND SPOT at the National Arts Festival, and Making Way: Contemporary Art from South Africa and China at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg.