The Art of Comics Exhibition: French Bandes dessinees and SA Comics in Conversation


The Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), the Embassy of France in South Africa and the French Institute of SA are hosting The Art of Comics, a new exhibition that showcases the fascinating worlds of South African comics and French bandes dessinées, the famous French comic style.

The Art of Comics, which runs from September 19 to November 17 at the JAG, will offer visitors a rich variety of contemporary South African comics and graphic novels that explore themes related to history, folklore, science fiction, autobiography and new developments in the field, such as augmented reality comics.

It will also include a special section on French Speaking Comics Today, curated by Thierry Groensteen, one of France’s leading bande dessinées researchers and theorists.

Various workshops will be organised during the exhibition for schools and the public, led by South African and French experts as well as special guests, to learn about the techniques around comics, animation and  augmented reality.

The exhibition is timed to coincide with Comic Con Africa, the continent’s largest comic festival, to give the public a wider look into the world of comics and animation. An estimated 80 000 people attended the inaugural event in South Africa last year, highlighting the popularity of this art form.

The Art of Comics is presented by the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Embassy of France in South Africa and the French Institute of South Africa, and sponsored by Total, who will be bringing more than 800 students to the exhibition.

The_Art_of_comics_flyerDiscover South African & French Talent

The work of important South African artists, including Loyiso Mkize, Mogorosi Motshumi and Luke Molver, will be on display.

Mkize is the talent behind South Africa’s first real superhero, Khwezi, and behind The Art of Comics‘ visual identity, while Motshumi is the first black South African to publish an autobiography in a graphic novel format, entitled The Initiation.

Molver is the artist behind the 1980s comic strip Sloppy. He will soon be launching the second edition of his Shaka Rising graphic novel series.

Some of the best French bandes dessinées artists will be showcased, including Riad Sattouf, cartoonist, comic artist, and film director who worked for the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo and wrote The Secret Life of Teenagers, as well as Pénélope Bagieu, author of the successful illustrated blog My Life is Fascinating, and Lewis Trondheim, an award-winning comic author, who created the independent bande dessinée publishing house L’association.

The work of other artists linked to animation and innovative formats, such as virtual reality, will also be displayed, including a VR experience of the short film Accused 2, based on sound archives from the famous Rivonia trial.

About the curators

Raymond Whitcher, Co-curator of the South African part of the exhibition: Whitcher is both a fervent connoisseur, as well as an avid maker of comics.

He is currently producing his original title Wanton as a piece of creative practice research towards his PHD at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where he is also a lecturer in Animation at the Digital Arts Division of the Wits School of Arts.

He has published three academic articles on comic practices in both international as well as South African contexts, and has been a panelist at the San Diego Comic Convention, Design Indaba, Arts in Society, CUMULUS and WIAD.

He is about to release a book chapter on Digital Comics in Africa.

Tara Weber, co-curator of the South African part of the exhibition: Tara Weber graduated in 2013 from the Curatorship Honours at the University of Cape Town, whilst working part time in the University’s Special Collections archives.

She has been working as registrar (and opportunistic curator) at the Johannesburg Art Gallery since 2014. She enjoys working to create new narratives within the JAG collection, and has curated and co-curated exhibitions such as The Evidence of Things Not Seen (2016), Spellbinders (2017) and Floating Worlds: Japanese – French Print Dialogues (2018) with Bernard Leveneur at the Léon Dierx Museum in Réunion.

Thierry Groensteen, curator of the French part of the exhibition: Thierry Groensteen is one of the leading French-speaking bande dessinée researchers, and has published numerous books and articles on the subject.

In 1984, Groensteen became the editor-in-chief of the old fanzine Schtroumpf: Les Cahiers de la bande dessinée, transforming it into one of the first publications that would lead to serious academic criticism of comics in France and beyond.

He was the director of Angoulême’s Musée de la bande dessinée during the early 1990s, and was the founder and editor at Éditions de L’An 2, before it was integrated by the famous publishing house Actes Sud. He is currently a lecturer at the École Européenne Supérieure des Arts et Technologies de l’Image in Angoulême.

Mogorosi_Motshumi,_The_InitiationProgramme and workshops:

  • Official opening of The Art of Comics exhibition: Thursday, September 19 at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. The official opening is part of the After Dark and Museum Night programme which starts at 5 pm.
  • Panel Discussion at Comic Con Africa on Saturday, September 21 at the Comic Con Africa, Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand. Discussion with The Art of Comics‘ curators Tara Weber, Ray Whitcher and Thierry Groensteen as well as special guests such as comics artist Moray Rhoda from Reunion Island from 11 am.
  • Public Walkabout at the Johannesburg Art Gallery on Sunday, September 22 at 11am.
  • Heritage Day Programme at the Johannesburg Art Gallery from on Tuesday, September 24. Children’s workshop led by illustrator Jess Jardim-Wedepohl at 10 am and special Heritage Day walkabout at 11am.
  • School Holiday program at JAG from September 25-27 at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. There will be a pop up workshop with Young Bucks on Septenber 25 from 10 am to 1 m. And from 2 pm to 5 pm there will be a JAG silkscreen demonstration. Space is limited, so please book. On September 26 there will be a Comics Making 101 workshop with Ray Whitcher from 10 to 12 noon and a second workshop with Bill Masuku from 1 pm to 3 pm. Space is limited so please book.
  • Comics and Memory at 1 pm on September 28 at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. A presentation around the importance of comics and animation in interpreting archival material with French artists Camille Duvelleroy (Panama Al Brown) and Oerd Van Cuijlenborg (Accused 2) as well as South African archivists and archives.
  • Comics and Queer Identity on September 29 at the Johannesburg Art Gallery.  Launch of Meanwhile Graphic novel of queer stories from East and Southern Africa book launch in partnership with GALA and Qintu Collab from 3 pm to 5 pm.

October programme: Comics and Society

The focus will be the importance of comics in social and political commentary. Artists such as Mogorosi Motshumi have made a valuable contribution to society through their cartoons and comics. Workshops, activities and talks will focus on topics related to the theme.

November programme: Beyond the Page – the Future of Comics

The focus on workshops that explore the future of comics and the many forms that comics can take, featuring Kay Carmichael, the artist behind web comic Sophie Giant Slayer. More information will be made available online.

  • There will be a public walkabout at the Johannesburg Art Gallery on Sunday, November 17 at 11 am.

To book for the workshops please email



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