KALI VAN DER MERWE (b. Johannesburg 1964) re-named herself after the fierce Indian goddess of creation and destruction.
Kali’s most recent exhibition ‘After Life, an aperture on the mysteries life through the lens of death’, was hosted at the historical Kings Map Room of Iziko South African Museum. This re-interpretation of the museum specimen guided by plays of imagination rather than organised by any systematic reason proved to be an extremely popular exhibition amongst adults and children alike. It garnered a number of positive reviews in the media and the exhibition was extended for a further 2 months at the museum for a total of 5 months.
Kali’s formal education is grounded in a BAFA majoring in sculpture from Michaelis School of Fine Arts, University of Cape Town. Post formal study, she worked in the mediums of ceramics, printmaking and sculpture, exhibiting at galleries nationally and internationally, taking part in a group show at MOMA, Oxford.
Kali unpicked her formal art education living an experimental lifestyle in the former East Berlin in the early nineties. She began working with sound, filmed images, slides, photographs, light sculptures and serigraphs, collaborating with a number underground collectives of the time, creating installations in various cities including Amsterdam, Berlin and Zurich.
Returning to a democratic South Africa she extended her interest in filmmaking to make documentaries. Based in Cape Town, her work combined social issue filmmaking with creative social development and her collaborative documentaries won multiple local and international best film and jury awards at festivals over her 2 decade film career.
Eight years ago, a series of entheogen awakenings made it no longer possible to live in the noise and bustle of the city. Kali found creative refuge on a farm near the remote village of Baardskeerdersbos, in the Western Cape. In this rural space and silence, she embarked on an intense, three year series of archetypal, mythological, photographic self-portraits using ‘light painting’ as a transformative technique. During this time, she lost her eyesight and had it dramatically restored via cataract eye surgery. Extending the ‘light painting’ technique to fynbos, indigenous forests, wildlife and insects in her rural surroundings, Kali excels at making the real unreal.
Kali’s exhibitions are environments of microcosmic and macrocosmic, macabre beauty displayed in multiple mediums appealing to all the senses including touch and smell. Kali views herself as a visual advocate on behalf of wild, fragile indigenous flora and fauna, encouraging people to observe, connect, and be immersed in sense of wonder.