kali van der merwe

Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth

Alan Watts

kali van der merwe



Kali van der Merwe’s main artistic explorations take place in the dark, with the night as her photographic darkroom. Kali blurs boundaries between painting and photography with long exposures and a technique called ‘light painting’. Her work traverses nuanced interconnection between death and life, searching for the soul of form with light.


Kali holds a Fine Art degree focussed on sculpture from the University of Cape Town. Post formal study, she sojourned in Berlin “the capital of re- invention”. Returning to South Africa with an interest in filmmaking, she began a career as a documentary filmmaker. Her work combined social issue filmmaking with creative social development and her collaborative documentaries won multiple best film and jury awards at local and international film festivals.


After a successful 15 year film career, Kali followed a strong impulse to return to personal creativity in an intimate way. 7 years ago, a series of awakenings made it no longer possible to live in the noise and bustle of the city. She found creative refuge near the remote, micro village of Baardskeerdersbos in the Overberg of the Western Cape. In rural silence, she plumbed her own depths in a series of photographic, mythological, transforming self-portraits. During this process, fynbos and fauna in her immediate surroundings, became subjects of inspiration too. Kali sees herself as a visual advocate on behalf of fragile and threatened wild animals and plants.





1983 - 86

Bachelor of Arts in Sculpture Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town.



Advanced Diploma in Art (with distinction) focussed on Ceramic Sculpture - Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town



Courses in Lithography and Serigraphy at Kunsthaus Bethanien, Berlin.




“Brown” - first prize in the African Documentary section of the 15th African, Asian and Latin American Film Festival, Milan, Italy


“Brown” - Best South African Documentary at the 26th Durban International Film Festival


“Brown”  - Best Documentary at the Apollo Film Festival in Victoria West, 2005, South Africa.


“Doing it!” - Audience prize at the Cinema delle Donne Film Festival, Turin, Italy;


“Doing it!” - Jury award at the Ismailia Film Festival, Egypt


“Doing it!” - Gold Stone award in from the National Television and Video Association South Africa (NTVA).


“Iduma Elingopiyo, The Wound that does not Bleed” - competing with feature films, the documentary came second in the Best Foreign Film category at the AdriaticoCinema Festival, Italy.


Awarded the Mc Iver Women’s Bursary


Awarded the Irma Stern Scholarship





AfTeR LiFe - multi media installation at IZIKO South African Museum Cape Town

Fynarts Festival Hermanus

Baardskeerdersbos Art Route March, September



Broke-Whole - multi media installation Grande Provence Gallery Franschhoek

Baardskeerdersbos Art Route March, September



Fabula Nex - multi-media installation Rossouw Modern Gallery Hermanus

beyond Beyond, infinite and infinitesimal – photographic exhibition and installation  - Prince Albert Gallery, Prince Albert.

Baardskeerdersbos Art Route, March, October

That Art Fair – Print Gallery



beyond Beyond, infinite and infinitesimal – photographic exhibition and installation and experimental video - Cameraland Cape Town, curated by Jackie Ruth Murray.

Baardskeerdersbos Art Route, April and October



Baardskeerdersbos Art Route, April and October

Group show - Skullduggery – The Studio Kalk Bay cape Town

Group show - Intimacies – Youngblood Gallery - Month of Photography Film and Video 6



Baardskeerdersbos Art Route, April and October

Botanical Exhibition at Print Gallery Woodstock



Baardskeerdersbos Art Route

“Dark Light” exhibited at the 5th Cape Town Month of Photography

Kalk Bay Modern Gallery



Baardskeerdersbos Art Route in the Overberg.

AUTUMN MMXI, group show at MUSEUM Photographic Art Gallery, Woodstock.



Guest Artist at Baardskeerdersbos Art Route exhibiting photographic art works.



“out of the blue” -  an exploration of sensual feminine energies photographed underwater - exhibited at Misael Space, Cape Town.



“Recovery of Body Mind and Spirit” - documentary photographs on permanent exhibition at Brewelskloof Hospital, Worcester, Cape Town.

“Re:Search” – documentary photographs commisioned for SATVI - South African TB Vaccine Initiative, shown at the CTICC - Cape Town International Convention Centre. On permanent exhibition at University of Cape Town’s Medical School Campus



"Face the People” – portraits, stories and documentary photographs honouring 20 community health workers from various communities all across greater Cape Town was shown at Guga S’Thebe Langa, Lookout Hill Khayelitsha, UWC Library Belleville and Community House Salt River. The project was a commission from the Department of Health and Cape Metro District Health Services.



"Captive" a serried of experimental photographs shown at the Castle of Good Hope Cape Town as part of the Month of Photography



"out of time", – video installation shown at the Brett Kebble Art Awards.

"Uhambo, Pieces of a Dream", a multi-media installation created for the Mothertongue Collective shown at the main festival in Grahamstown and at the Intimate Theatre, Hiddingh Hall Campus UCT, Cape Town.



"digitalove" – video installation shown at the Brett Kebble Art Awards.

"digitalove" – video installation shown at YDESIRE at the Castle of Good Hope as the 4th Softserve art event.



"ssense, erotic reality journey" shown at the Castle of Good Hope as part of the Month of Photography.

“Call me Dog” curated an exhibition of photographs taken by marginalised youth on the Cape Flats. The exhibition is shown on the Hiddingh Hall campus of UCT as part of the Month of Photography and at the e-centre set up by Naspers. The photographs were published in Marie Claire Italy.



Curated exhibition “Iduma Elingopiyo, The Wound that does not Bleed” shown at the South African Library, Cape Town as part of 100 XC Photography in South Africa.



goddess kali

kali the goddess

By you this universe is born, by you this world is created

By you it is protected, O Devi. By you it is consumed at the end

You who are eternally the form of the whole world,

at the time of creation you are the form of the creative force,

at the time of preservation you are the form of the protective power,

and at the time of the dissolution of the world

you are the form of the destructive power.

You are the Supreme Knowledge, as well as ignorance,

intellect and contemplation


Devi-Mahatmya  (Great Goddess)

The name Kali was first known in 4 AD



Kali is usually represented naked – stripped of all illusion – she is nature (prakriti). She gives birth to the cosmos – she has the male principle within her. Her hair is the fabric of space time which organises the matter out of chaos. Her garland of 50 human heads represent the 50 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet – this symbolises knowledge and wisdom. She wears a girdle of human hands signifying karma - hands being the instruments of work – accumulation of deeds. Her red lolling tongue represents the rajas – the activating quality in nature. She has 4 hands. In her left hand she holds a severed head – indicating the annihilation of ego bound evil forces. In her other hand she carries a bloody sickle sword which cuts off heads. She is limitless primordial power awakening unmanifest Shiva beneath her feet.


She is the archetypal image of birth and death, giver of life and destroyer. The vital principles of the visible universe which has many faces – gracious cruel – creative – destructive, loving – indifferent – the endless possibility of the active energy at the heart of the world. She can be benevolent and frightening.


She can be worshipped in the form of a naked female, the further away from the accepted norms of beauty the better. But the worshipper must feel the same awe and fear as when worshipping the terrible mother goddess.

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