Jay Pather

Choreographer | Curator (Live Art)

Sept-Oct 2022 | March 2023

Jay Pather

Michael Hammond/UCT

  • Performing Arts
  • Cities
  • New York
  • Washington, DC
" I am interested in the body’s attempts at maintaining balance and order in the face of rampant chaos, deeply intimate shifts that speak to the desire to surface "

As part of Albertine Dance Season 2023


I grew up in apartheid South Africa. From an early age then, I had a visceral sense of apartheid and its ravages on my communities. Sustained coloniality, race and class, separate development based on the color of one’s skin had a direct effect on my early art making. Activism and politics became inimical to the action of making art.  This did not end with the fall of apartheid in 1994. Since then, my commitment in all my work has been to consider its context and its affect. The navigation of the world’s care and lack of care of whole communities is a central impulse in my work. From here choreography, curating, developing teaching strategies and then creating platforms and opportunities for the development of new work by young artists have all been part of the same continuum.   

My performance work in the latter part of my career has been inspired by and interacted with urban sites, beginning with a series of works titled Cityscapes, Home, and State of Grace set in various parts of South African cities.   Marking ten years of a democracy that had failed its people, I began to use site as an ironic comment on the subject I was working, for ex.  Qaphela Caesar, based on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar set in the old Johannesburg Stock Exchange. 

Also interested in embodiment and the impact of violence on the body, I used large scale projections of anatomical drawings to contain the several sections of a travelling work titled Body of Evidence. In the same manner Blind Spot commissioned by the Metropolis Biennale for Copenhagen, explored in a three and half hour walk from the immigrant ghettoes to the central city, themes of migration and displacement.  

I have edited a book Acts of Transgression, Live Art in South Africa and in the process of another one, Restless Infections, Temporal Public Art in South Africa. My writing helps consolidate and reflect on the range of artistic and educational work.  


Jay Pather is a Professor at University of Cape Town, directing the Institute for Creative Arts. He is a performance theorist, choreographer and curator. He curates the Infecting the City Festival; the ICA Live Art Festival and the Afrovibes Festival (The Netherlands). Artistic works include Qaphela Caesar, a deconstruction of Julius Caesar, at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Recent publications appear in Routledge Companion to Art in the Public Realm and a book, Transgressions, Live Art in South Africa.  He served as a juror for the TURN Fonds and on the Board of the National Arts Festival of South Africa. He was recently made Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.