South African Visual Arts Historians (SAVAH) is an organisation of academics and professionals that seek to advance the professional practice of art history and visual culture in South Africa and to forge relations with practitioners from other disciplines and regions.

Our country has a relatively small group of people working in or allied with the discipline of the history of the visual arts. Most of them are members of SAVAH.

Since the late 1980s, and with the subsequent lifting of sanctions, we have been actively trying to adapt to the changing role of our discipline in South Africa, to transform the demographics of the society and to forge links with international art historians in both Africa and the west. To this end we formally allied our organisation with CIHA (Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art).


We held a colloquium at WITS University in January 2011 under the auspices of CIHA, which was well attended by both local and international delegates and included the participation of African academics and art historians from throughout the continent; some of whom subsequently have become members of SAVAH.

We hold annual national conferences, which are also attended by international guest speakers and delegates, and publish the conference proceedings.

Furthermore we organise, on an ad hoc basis, various workshops or smaller symposia aimed at participation on a more localised level. We send out a regular e-newsletter to our members and we have established a link with a local peer-reviewed academic journal – De Arte – which our members receive bi-annually as part of their membership fee.

Our History

1984 South African Association of Art Historians (later to become SAVAH) is established. 2005 A change of name and identity is decided on at a workshop on the transformation of the association. The new name, South African Visual Arts Historians, signifies a move to become more inclusive and to adapt to the changing role of our discipline in South Africa. 2011 SAVAH hosts a colloquium in January 2011 as member of the prestigious International Committee of Art History – CIHA (Comité National d’Histoire de l’ Art).


For more information about SAVAH, please contact us on: