Kali Van Der Merwe

Available work

Kali van der Merwe hails from Johannesburg and presently lives near the village of Baardskeerdersbos. She has a diverse creative career as an artist, award-winning filmmaker, photographer, sound designer, social activist and skills trainer.

After graduating with honours in sculpture at Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, Kali worked in the mediums of ceramics, printmaking and sculpture and exhibited at galleries nationally and internationally. Her early work has been collected by the Iziko South African National Gallery and exhibited at MOMA in Oxford England.

Kali lived in Berlin for five years, experimenting with many mediums including filmmaking and photography in the chaotic environment post the wall coming down. Collaboration with anarchist, art collectives led to multi-media interventions in various European capitals.

Returning to South Africa, Kali co-founded and co-directed the non-profit organization Other-Wise media, producing innovative media on gender and social issues while training youth and women participants in the making process. A 15-year filmmaking career has seen Kali�s documentaries screened around the world to critical acclaim, winning many awards including; Best African documentary at the Milan African, Asian and South American Festival and Best South African documentary at the Durban International Film Festival. Her erotic, taboo-challenging photographic and short video projects were finalists in national art awards and screened at local and international film festivals.

Three years ago, out of a desire to return to more personal creativity, Kali put herself in front of her own cameras. In this practice she works with long exposures and light, exploring archetypal and mythological states of being from a contemporary perspective. She has also been deeply inspired by the fynbos and indigenous forest in her surroundings and images sacred connectedness between the embodied soul and the soulscapes of nature. 

Dark Light � images of re-wakening (series of photographs)

Scientists have discovered the visible world accounts for less than 5% of the matter in the universe. They have little understanding of what the other 95% is composed of and termed it dark matter and dark energy. We are in the dark and the cosmos is composed of the dark. Analogous is the genesis of my images, which are birthed at night and emerge from a subliminal place in myself.  I use a photographic technique called Light Painting to give image form. It employs long exposure and movable light sources, breaking away from the literal into the interpretive, allowing for the visionary to manifest.  My process is one of inner awakening, searching for intersections where personal meets primal, individual becomes archetypal, human touches divine.  I use my female body to explore these depths. Invariably I am naked, casting off culture for a more essential reality.  This solitary creativity frees me from inhibition and translates my inspiration directly without the gaze of another.  My rational self is confined to the technical details of the camera, allowing my unconscious self, freedom to surface through gestural performance in front of the lens.  Painting in light enables me to transcend corporeal reality, transforming flesh into vital energy forms and allowing the mythic to manifest. In this space, I find intuitive dialogue with a myriad of primordial selves.  My images are forged directly in camera. There is no digital manipulation involved. I prefer to work with mediated chance, fusing locality with temporality.  My intention is to re-awaken and re-invigorate the female spirit in all her ancient and contemporary multiplicity.