The Art of Comics: French bandes dessinées and South African comics in conversation

Arts and Creative Industries

The Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), the Embassy of France in South Africa and the French Institute of South Africa are pleased to present The Art of Comics, an exciting 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 will take place from 19 September until 17 November 2019 at the JAG, will offer visitors a rich variety of contemporary South African comics and graphic novels that explore themes of history, folklore, science fiction, autobiography and new developments in the field, such as augmented reality comics. The exhibition will also include a special section on French Speaking Comics Today, curated by Thierry Groensteen, one of France’s leading bande dessinée researchers and theorists.

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

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.

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.

Discover South African and 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, Kwezi, 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 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.



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 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.


Programme & Workshops

Official Opening of The Art of Comics exhibition
Thursday 19 September – Johannesburg Art Gallery
Official opening as part of the After Dark and Museum Night programme – 17:00

Panel Discussion at Comic Con Africa
Saturday 21 September – 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 – 11:00 

Public Walkabout
Sunday 22 September – Johannesburg Art Gallery
Walkabout of The Art of Comics exhibition with the curators – 11:00
Drawing workshop with artist Serge Huo-Chao-Si from Reunion Island (space limited, RSVP essential) – 12:00

Heritage Day Programme
Tuesday 24 September– Johannesburg Art Gallery
Children’s workshop with Johannesburg Family Gathering led by Mabeleng Naledi and Khanyisa Sigwanda – 10:00
Special Heritage Day Public Walkabout – 11:00

School Holiday program at JAG
25 – 27 September – Johannesburg Art Gallery
25 September: Introduction to Pop-ups workshop with Young Bucks – 10:00-13:00 (space limited, RSVP essential)
JAG silkscreen demonstration – 14:00-17:00 (space limited, RSVP essential)

26 September: Comics Making 101 workshop with Ray Whitcher – 10:00-12:00 (space limited, RSVP essential)
Comics Making 101 workshop with Bill Masuku – 13:00-15:00 (space limited, RSVP essential)

Comics and Memory
28 September – Johannesburg Art Gallery
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 – 13:00

Comics and Queer Identity
29 September – 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 – 15:00-17:00

October Program: Comics and Society
The focus of the month 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 Program: Beyond the Page – the Future of Comics
This month will 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.

Public Walkabout
Sunday 17 November – Johannesburg Art Gallery
Last walkabout with the curators before the closing of the exhibition – 11:00

Ongoing programming:
JAG Art Classes Wednesdays 2-5pm in education studio (open to the public, rsvp essential)
Screenprinting and zine making workshops (on request)
Guided School tours (on request)


For workshop booking: Contact Colin Groenewald at 011 725 3130 (extension 113) or



> Date:
From Thursday 19 September to Sunday 17 November
Public opening on Thursday 19 September at 17:00

> Venue:
Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG)
Corner Klein and King George Streets,
Joubert Park, Johannesburg
JAG has access to secure parking situated on premise

> JAG’s opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00 – 17:00

> Admission:
Free entrance

More information



Bridget van Oerle/ Sneziwe Dube /
011 477 0923/ 011 673 0264


The French Institute of South Africa (IFAS)
Mylene Loubiere
T: 011 403 0458

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