Finding Voice

A Visual Arts Approach to Engaging Social Change

Subjects: Cultural Studies, African Studies
Hardcover : 9780472073665, 248 pages, 40 figures, 2 tables, 6 x 9, December 2017
Open Access : 9780472900718, 248 pages, 40 figures, 2 tables, 6 x 9, January 2018
Paperback : 9780472053667, 248 pages, 40 figures, 2 tables, 6 x 9, December 2017
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A model for cultural activism and pedagogy through art and community engagement


In Finding Voice, Kim Berman demonstrates how she was able to use visual arts training in disenfranchised communities as a tool for political and social transformation in South Africa. Using her own fieldwork as a case study, Berman shows how hands-on work in the arts with learners of all ages and backgrounds can contribute to economic stability by developing new skills, as well as enhancing public health and gender justice within communities. Berman’s work, and the community artwork her book documents, present the visual arts as a crucial channel for citizens to find their individual voices and to become agents for change in the arenas of human rights and democracy.


Kim S. Berman is Associate Professor in the Department of Visual Art at the University of Johannesburg and the Executive Director of Artist Proof Studio.


“Berman offers a fresh take on the ecosystem of the democratic arts through a powerful story of how printmakers and papermakers advanced social change in post-apartheid South Africa. Her account of the HIV/AIDS crisis shows the adaptability of visual arts programs as they respond to stigma, disempowerment, and policy failures. Throughout, she vigorously scrutinizes the politics of knowledge at work in processes of organizational change at the interface between arts centers and universities.”
—Julie Ellison, University of Michigan 

​​“This timely book is a treasure of gathered wisdom from Berman’s extensive experience as an artist, activist, and social innovator. Grounded in decades of creative engagement toward transformative change in South Africa, it offers diverse and original ways to work ethically and meaningfully with community members. Finding Voice deserves to be read internationally by scholars, practitioners, elected and informal leaders, change-makers and everyone working to create a better world.”
—Michelle LeBaron, University of British Columbia

“A must read for those seeking to understand the creative potential of the visual arts, participatory pedagogy, and collaborative research praxis in developing community and taking action for change. Berman demonstrates how South Africans’ creativity, agency and resilience are contributing to redressing inequities of longstanding and entrenched systems of racism and extreme poverty.”
—M. Brinton Lykes, Boston College

“Kim Berman’s pioneering work, Finding Voice, is transgressive in the best sense, crossing boundaries that separate disciplines, communities, academics, policy-makers, and funders. She challenges fashionable fatalism. She shows how cooperative artistic production, bringing poor communities together with scholars and artists, can be a wellspring of agency and hope.” 
—Harry Boyte, Augsburg University

"Berman offers fresh pathways for applying arts education to political discourse throughout the Global South. With expansive goals, Berman examines the remarkable resilience of South African women artists as a telling example of engaging broader debates on the role of local arts in advancing critical theory."
-- Africa Today

- Andrew Kettler, University of Toronto

Read: Reviewed in the African Studies Review | March 2021
Read: Kim Berman interviewed in Creative Feel Link | 2/20/2018