Out of curiosity, we asked the Michaelis and CCA staff to tell us which books are currently perched on their bed-side tables, and/or their five all time favourite reads. We received an interesting array of responses.

Nomusa Makhubu‘s top ten reads:

  1. Wizard of the Crow – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
  2. On Revolution – Hannah Arendt
  3. What is Slavery to Me – Pumla Dineo Gqola
  4. The Famished Road – Ben Okri
  5. Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
  6. Ain’t I a Woman – bell hooks
  7. Citizen and Subject – Mahmood Mamdani
  8. Rebel Cities – David Harvey
  9. In Other Worlds – Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
  10. African Art as Philosophy – Souleymane Bachir Diagne

Nomusa Makhubu is an art historian, artist and lecturer of Art History and Visual Culture at Michaelis. She has exhibited works nationally and internationally and has conducted research on politics of identity and sexuality; examining visual politics in contemporary South African art; and West African video-film.

Svea Josephy (a particularly honest response):

screenshot svea josephy
– this email continues as follows: “although I also do read “People” magazine, my bedside table actually looks quite academic at the moment!” Indeed it does; Svea’s bed-side table includes:

  1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – Barbara Kingsolver with Stephen L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver
  2. Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis – edited by Geoffrey Batchen, Mick Gidley, Nancy K. Miller, Jay Prosser
  3. Black Skin, White Masks – Franz Fanon
  4. Abnormal – Michel Foucault
  5. Defiant Images: Photography and Apartheid South Africa – Darren Newbury
  6. Ponte City – Mikhael Subotzky with Patrick Waterhouse

Svea, a senior lecturer on photography at Michaelis, is a photographer whose work has been exhibited widely, both nationally and internationally. Her research is concerned with the politics of post apartheid photography, particularly as it connects to the politics of the land and its representation in relation to identity. We were thus very grateful to find out her top South African photography books:

  1. South Africa: The Structures of Things Then – David Goldblatt
  2. Beyond the Barricades – Edited by Tillman & Hill
  3. The Holy Bible – Broomberg & Chanarin
  4. Photo-book: Photomontages – Jane Alexander
  5. Ponte City – Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse

Nancy Dantas

Recent reads:

  1. The Object – Edited by Antony HudekNancy Books
  2. The Art Museum from Boullée to Bilbao – Andrew McClellan
  3. Monsters of Our Own Making: The Peculiar Pleasures of Fear – Marina Warner
  4. Landscapes of Abandonment – Roger A. Salerno
  5. The Comfort of Things – by Daniel Miller
  6. Art Gallery Exhibiting – Paul Andriesse
  7. Museums in a Troubled World – Robert R. Janes
  8. Museum Ethics – Janet Marstine
  9. Race, Memory and the Apartheid Archive: Towards a Transformative Psychosocial Praxis – Edited by Garth Stevens, Norman Duncan, Derek Hook
  10. Liberating Culture: Cross-cultural Perspectives on Museums, Curation, and Heritage Preservation – Christina Faye Kreps

Nancy Dantas – who studied Contemporary Art, Theory and Criticism (MA from the University of Essex) as well as Curatorial Studies and Exhibition Organisation (Faculdade de Belas Artes de Lisboa) – has worked as a curator, independent collections manager, project manager, freelance press liaison and editorial assistant. She has organised a number of exhibitions including Thin Air, Quantos Queres, and MARZlive.

Carine Zaayman

“Some of my all-time favourites”:

  1. The Castle in the Forest – Norman Mailer
  2. Shakespearian Negotiations – Stephen Greenblatt
  3. The Human Stain – Philip Roth
  4. From Hell – Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
  5. The Sot-Weed Factor – John Barth

bedside-books“Currently on my beside table (new acquisitions)”:

  1. Early slavery at the Cape of Good Hope, 1652-1717 – Karel Schoeman
  2. Authoring the past – Edited by Alun Munslow
  3. The assassination of Margaret Thatcher – Hilary Mantel
  4. The Institute for Taxi Poetry – Imraan Coovadia
  5. Levels of Life – Julian Barnes

As a lecturer in new media and curatorship at the Michaelis School of Fine Art and the Centre for Curating the Archive, Carine has a particular interest in hybrid practices, the moving image and the book as a site of artistic production. Carine holds a particular interest in the notion of the anarchive, a term developed through her doctoral studies, which envisages the past as unbounded. This notion further suggests an openness to imaginative interpretation through artistic practices – the main focus of her work and teaching.

Nina Liebenberg

The following reply from Nina was hardly a surprise – if you’re at Michaelis and you’re trying to borrow a book from one of the staff members, you might just have to wait for Nina to finish up with it first. Nina: “My list of all time favourite/essential books has changed every time I thought about writing them down this last week. This is the list as it stands now. When you see me again – it will definitely have changed.”

Favourite/essential books (“You choose 5. I just can’t” – we included both #5s):

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee: After not having read it in high school (we were given The Great Gatsby instead) I first read it during a summer holiday whilst studying at Stellenbosch and again, about two years ago. The second encounter was even more profound than the first. Funny and sad and true, it’s almost time to read it again. I cannot wait.
    Quote: “They’ve done it before and they’ll do it again and when they do it – seems that only the children weep.”
  2. The New York Trilogy – Paul Auster: A philosophical detective story set in New York. What is there not to love here? I have been following Auster (and his wife, Siri Hustvedt) ever since I sat down with City of Glass in 2001. Serendipity, life-altering split-second decisions, and truth-which-is-stranger-than-fiction: all Austerian ingredients.
  3. The Witches – Roald Dahl: Matilda almost won here…I especially loved her book-worminess when I was ten. Ultimately though, The Witches come out on top. It was my first Dahl. My first encounter with words like ‘bopmuggered’ and ‘whizpopping’ and ‘frobscottle’. I loved that he trusted children enough to give them ‘unhappy’ endings, as well as wicked humour.
    Quote: “In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. The most important thing you should know about REAL WITCHES is this. Listen very carefully. Never forget what is coming next.”
  4. The Botany of Desire: A Plant-Eye’s View of the World – Michael Pollan: A book that explores the evolutionary relationship between humans and plants and one that I have returned to numerous times as inspiration for artworks.
    Quote: “The virus altered the eye of the beholder. That this change came at the expense of the beheld suggests that beauty in nature does not necessarily bespeak health, nor necessarily redound to the benefit of the beautiful.”
  5. Raise High the Roofbeam , Carpenters/ Seymour: an introduction – J.D. Salinger:
    These books are about the Glass Family – a family of child geniuses who appeared on a 1927 radio quiz show called It’s a Wise Child and who, as is the case with child geniuses, become increasingly dysfunctional, as they get older. The main protagonist is the eldest brother, the brilliant and idiosyncratic Seymour, who commits suicide age 31. As reader, you only ever encounter him through the memories of his siblings.
    Quote: “My brother for the record had a distracting habit most of his adult life of investigating loaded ashtrays with his index finger, clearing all the cigarette ends to the sides — smiling from ear to ear as he did it — as if he expected to see Christ himself curled up cherubically in the middle, and he never looked disappointed.”
  6. The Music in the Ice: On Writers, Writing and Other Things – Stephen Watson
    Whether writing about longing in the music of Leonard Cohen, or how a chance wander down Buiten Street evoke the heartbreak of unreciprocated love in his undergrad years, these essays by the late UCT English professor taught me how the parameters of an essay could be stretched to include the poetic and idiosyncratic. I am very sorry that I never had the chance to meet him, but very thankful that this compilation exist.
    Quote: “Nobody, the novelist Tom Robbins once remarked, can say the word ‘naked’ as nakedly as Leonard Cohen.”

Recent books:
1) The Secret Place – Tana French
2) Orfeo – Richard Powers
3) The Giver – Lois Lowry
4) Six Walks in the Fictional Woods – Umberto Eco
5) The Way the World Works – Nicholson Baker

Beside being an extremely avid reader, Nina, who is currently working on her PHD, is a practicing artist and has exhibited in a variety of shows. Drawing on the expertise of individuals from a myriad of disciplines ranging from chemistry, medical imaging, physics, engineering and botany, she seeks to portray the intersection between the quantifiable and the poetic – using these scientific vocabularies to evoke feelings of ‘what might have been’, ‘if only’ and other yearnings of the heart.