Photo of Sophie Peters

Sophie Peters

b. Johannesburg, 1968. Lives in Cape Town

Printmaker, painter and musician, Sophie Peters employs narrative devices to detail her personal history and experience.

Art Education

1994 Advanced Teacher Training, Community Arts Project, Woodstock, Cape Town.
1988 Ceramics with Barbara Jackson, Cape Town.
1986-1987: Community Arts Project, Cape Town.

Workshops & Residencies

2006 Community Art Workshop, Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town.
2004 Renaissance Printmaking Workshop, Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town.
2001 Greatmore Studios, Cape Town. Caversham Press, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
2000 Print 2000, Maastricht, Netherlands.
1997 Printmaking Project, Robben Island, Cape Town.
1990 Zabalaza Festival, London.

Solo Exhibitions

2007 Hand To Plough Landscapes, The Framery Gallery, Cape Town.
1994 Cry from the Heart, Belville Association of Arts, Cape Town

Group Exhibitions

2010 1910-2010: From Pieneef to Gugulective, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town. Gill Alderman Gallery, Kenilworth, Cape Town.2008: Provoke, Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town. Some South African Voices, Rose Korber Art Consultancy, Camps Bay, Cape Town. SA Art Times, November.
2007 africa south, AVA, Cape Town.
2006 Art in Business, Artscape, Cape Town. Face (In) Cape Town, Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town. A Journey Together, Voyage Ensemble, Scalabrini Centre, Cape Town.
2005 Botaki: Exhibition 2, Old Mutual Asset Managers. Botaki Exhibition 4, Old Mutual Asset Managers, Cape Town.
2004 Her Story, AVA, Cape Town. Renaissance, Cape Gallery, Cape Town. A Decade of Democracy, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town.
2003 Dreams of Our Daughters, Klein Karoo Kunstefees, Oudtshoorn.
2001 The Hourglass Project: A Women’s Vision, Art on Paper, Melville, Johannesburg; UNISA Gallery, Pretoria. Homecoming, Guga S’Thebe, Langa, Cape Town.
2000 How the Land Lies, Chelsea Gallery (with Lyn Smuts and Lien Botha), Wynberg, Cape Town. Greatmore Studios Official Opening, Greatmore Studios, Woodstock, Cape Town.
1999 Print Exchange 1998-1999: Portfolio for Playing Cards, Sasol Art Museum, Stellenbosch; Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria; Gencor Gallery, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg. Ten Years of Printmaking, Hard Ground Printmakers, Sanlam Art Gallery, Bellville.
1998 Siwela Ngaphesheya, Crossing the water, Robben Island Museum. Ekhaya, travelling exhibition, Western Cape. Dis Nag- The Cape’s Hidden Roots in Slavery, Iziko South African Cultural History Museum, Cape Town. Recent Publications, Hard Ground Printmakers, Grahamstown Festival, Grahamstown.
1997 Recent Publications, Hard Ground Printmakers, AVA. Body Politic (with Judy Woodborne, Alma Vortster and Fritha Langerman), AVA.
1996 Human Rights, South African Cultural History Museum, Cape Town. Barricaded Rainbow, Centre for African Studies, UCT, Cape Town. Artists Against Apartheid, Parliament, Cape Town, South Africa.
1994 Creating Image, Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town.
1993 South Africa in Black and White, ISANG. Picturing Our World, Grahamstown Festival. Grahamstown; ISANG, Cape Town. Women on Women, Seef Trust Art Gallery, Cape Town.
1992 Looking Back, Community Arts Project, Woodstock, Cape Town. Visual Arts Group Travelling Exhibition, Zolani Centre, Nyanga East; Uluntu centre, Gugulethu; Mannenberg Peoples Centre; Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town. Tapestry Wall, Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria.
1991 Visual Arts Group Travelling Exhibition, Cape Town. Transition, Baxter Theatre Gallery, Cape Town. Art in the Avenue, Cape Town.
1989 Nude, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town. Serendipity, Gallery, Cape Town.
1987 Invited Artists, Johannesburg Art Foundation. Volkskas Atelier Exhibition, Cape Town.
1986 The Eye of an Artist, Gugulethu. Young Blood, SAAA, Cape Town.

Group Exhibitions International

2008 Mapping Cultural Echoes-Voyage Ensemble, Harare International Festival of Arts (HIFA), Harare, Zimbabwe.2001: Canada.
2000 Germany. Iceland.1998: Artist for Africa, Sweden. Sicula Sizhentsha Xa Sisonke – The South Africa Aesthetic, travelling exhibition, USA.
1997 Sicula Sixhentsa Xa Sisonke – The South Africa Aesthetic, travelling exhibition, Mississippi, Detroit, New York, USA.
1995 Peace for Africa, Geneva, Switzerland.
1994 [Travelling exhibition] Brooklyn, NYC & Massachussets, USA.
1994Relief in Black and White,Brighton Festival,UK.
1990 Zabalaza Festival, Institute for Contemporary Art, London


Public collection: Iziko South African National Gallery; Durban Art Gallery; Constitutional Court of South Africa; Western Cape Provincial Government; Mayibuye Centre, UWC.Private collection: South Africa, Europe, USA and Australia.

Commissions (mural painting and book illustrations)

2007 Safmarine (4 paintings), Cape Town.
2005-2004: Pentecostal Rapha Mission (mural painting).
2004 Cape Span. Protea Hotel, Sea Point, Cape Town.
1998 Puleng and the Pumpkin, children’s book (book illustration). Hair, children’s book (book illustration). Truworths’ Millenium Calendar (two linoprints).
1997 True Love at Last-Ginwala Dowling. No More Stars in my Roof-Ginwala Dowling (book illustration). The Original Natural Living Diary (illustration).
1996 Robben Island Museum, Cape Town. District Museum, Cape Town. Department of Health, Cape Town. Mural painting, Mayibuye Centre, University of Western Cape. The Black Sash Trust Annual Report (Book cover illustration). Day by Day-English Pupils’ Book 5 M. Niller Longman (Illustration).
1993-1994: Mural painting (with Tshidi Sefako and Xolile Mtakatya), Nico Malan Opera House.
1991 Transitions, mural project (with members of Hard-Ground Printmakers Workshop), Baxter Gallery.
1990 4 mural paintings with other artists, Zabalaza Festival, London.
1989 Mural painting with other artists, Community House, Salt River, Cape Town.

Publications (books, magazines and catalogues)

2008 SA Art Times, issue 11 vol. 3, November.
2006 Mario Pissarra, Botaki: Exhibition 4, Conversations with Tyrone Appollis, Old Mutual Asset Managers, Cape Town (exhibition catalogue).
2005 Mario Pissarra, Botaki: Exhibition 3, Conversations with Donovan Ward, OMAM, Cape Town. Marion Pissarra, Botaki: Exhibition 2, Conversations with Sophie Peters, OMAM, Cape Town (exhibition catalogue).
2004 Sophie Perryer (ed.), 10 years 100 artists: Art in a Democratic South Africa, Bell Roberts Publishing, Cape Town. Renaissance Printmakers Exhibition, Cape Gallery (exhibition catalogue). Die Burger, October 1, p7.
1999 R Christian, The Hourglass Project-A Women’s Vision, Fulton Country Arts Council, Atlanta, USA (exhibition catalogue).
1998 Marie Caire Magazine. Stern Magazine (Germany).
1997 Emma Bedford (ed.), A Decade of Democracy: South African Art 1994-2004, Double Storey Books, Cape Town. E Rankin & P Hobbs, Printmaking in a Transforming South Africa, David Phillip Publishers, Cape Town. “Contemporary South African Art 1985-1995″, Third Text, vol 11 issue 39, pp 95-103.
1994 Sarie Magazine.
1993 Femina Magazine.
1992 A Oliphant (ed.), Culture and Empowerment: Debates, Workshops, Art and Photography from Zabalaza Festival, Staffrider, vol 10 no 3, Cosaw Publishing, Johannesburg.


Numerous awards for book illustrations. OtherHas taught art to children since 1987 (including for Sakhile Childrens Art Project, Community Arts Project and the Visual Arts Group.

Conversations with Sophie Peters [essay for exhibition catalogue]

© Mario Pissarra, 1/01/2005

This second Botaki exhibition is sub-titled Conversations with Sophie Peters. Peters is a graphic artist and painter who produces works that are intensely personal. For her themes she draws on her own experiences of people, places and circumstances. Some of this is directly autobiographical, other themes are more general in that she responds to issues that touch her and inspire her to respond visually. As she puts it “When I see people I like to draw them and paint them because there’s colours in me that want to come out. And there’s a lot of things that happens on streets, on trains and taxis and buses and [in] the community. Things that happens, I want just to put it on paper”.

The use of narrative, i.e. the telling of stories through pictures is an important feature in Peters’ works. In keeping with the ‘real’ subjects that she depicts, her images are naturalistic. Her use of proportion, perspective, tone and colour usually corresponds with what can be observed in the external world. However the techniques she uses to compose her pictures vary. Sometimes she inserts elements from her imagination into a seemingly straight forward, ‘realistic’ image, as she does with Ceres Bridge . In this painting the introduction of contrasting buildings, neither of which actually exists alongside the bridge at Ceres, serves to introduce questions about power and inequality. This theme is echoed in the dual nature of the bridge as both carriage way and pedestrian pathway. In this work the bridge goes beyond its technical definition, and assumes an ambivalent value as symbol of unity and division. The strength of this painting resides in its quiet but tenacious engagement with ‘reality.’

In other instances, such as when she is simultaneously relating several narratives, as with Captured Hearts, she departs from the norms of realist composition. Here she visually combines various elements, each with its own issue or set of stories, into one integrated composition. In such works one can sense the influence of her experience of mural painting. However even when Peters’ exercises artistic licence in composing her images, it can still be observed that the individual elements retain basic naturalistic qualities, for instance figures resemble real people, and colours usually approximate their sources in the seen world.

Peters’ design skills come to the fore in her black and white graphics, and these are perhaps her best known works. From simple illustration briefs that she invests with pathos; to poignant, even painful autobiographical subjects; to say nothing of emotive landscapes; Peters has been responsible for many striking prints.

Observation and drawing are core elements in Peters’ works. Both her graphics and paintings derive from her drawing and in particular out of her emphasis on pictorial line. Her images are motivated by her engagement with her subject matter, by themes that inspire her to create images. Unlike many other contemporary artists Peters is not interested in making her art materials the subject of her work, nor does she use her materials to explore and emphasize the process of making art. Rather she is driven by specific ideas, rooted in her own particular experience, and her materials serve essentially as tools to visually realize those ideas.

All of the accompanying artists on this exhibition: Tyrone Appollis; Peter Clarke; Lionel Davis; Dathini Mzayiya; Madi Phala; Thulani Shuku; Solomon Siko; Velile Soha; and Ernestine White; are concerned in their own work with some of the themes that can be found in the art of Sophie Peters. In summary these can be identified as: the telling of stories in picture form; representing ones own experience or biography through art; concerns with representing life in the communities in which artists reside or come from; and the centrality of drawing in the making of art.

The strategies adopted by these artists do not always resemble those used by Peters, and may contrast significantly. However in making these artistic concerns central to the show it is hoped that a series of ‘conversations’ can take place. These can take place between the artworks themselves, as interpreted by the viewer; and amongst the artists themselves outside of the limitations of this exhibition. On a more conventional level, the Conversation theme is carried further by the inclusion of parts of an interview with Sophie Peters, conducted at her home on 22 January 2005.

Mario Pissarra: Did you see a lot of art when you were growing up?

Sophie Peters: I was a child when I start seeing paintings of artists hanging in galleries and I thought “gosh”. I painted as a child with water colours and pastels, whatever, but I find out in myself I like drawing and I like paint and that was in me until today, I feel like I have to go on.

MP: Who took you to these galleries, and how young were you?

SP: No, I just walked around in Jo’burg… I was like 10 years old.

MP: For a 10 year old to walk into a gallery is quite brave, what made you go in?

SP: Because pictures… when I look at pictures the guys painted water like real water, stones under water and it just kicked me. And the flesh, when I see portraits… another guy, I think he was American, he painted portraits like real flesh and that made me do it. I can do it myself but I was a wood- cutter at that time too, and I tried everything that was in art just to get on top.

MP: Before you were 10 you were doing woodcut?

SP: Ja I did woodcut… I was cutting flowers, things like grapes and all that.

MP: Yes, I remember reading about that in a newspaper article … you were carving the trays used for selling vegetables?

SP: That’s it, ja. I was selling [vegetables] and the woodcut piece was like R11. I was just selling it when I finish doing a piece… I use[d] razorblades (laughs)… but it was sometimes a lot of blood on my hands. I used to close it up with tape, put some paper then I’d cut on and I’d finish all the wording and flowers and things like that.

The people that knew you what did they say?

They loved it because I sold the tamatie planks for R10 and so it worked, and they bought it. But today I’ve improved a lot and I’m glad I became an artist.

MP: You’ve said you make art because you respond to things you see in the community. Say a little more about why you, Sophie Peters, why you make art…

SP: I’ m a person that in my heart when things goes wrong and nobody wants to talk about it, I can’t get on no TV. I cant get on the newspaper. I make some art and I let it go through the [printing] press and put it on galleries and the galleries will put it in paper and from the paper they get on TV and there I will tell my story. And then the story goes out and the people always ask questions and they read about what happened … So me as an artist I want to express my feelings towards the people outside, towards the community, to the world…

MP: What do you still want to achieve as an artist?

SP: I want to go overseas. I want to go and stay there for a while, just to go and see what Van Gogh and the other artists… where they were living and like Michelangelo… I want to reach places like that, and go and learn more. Now I want to do some sculptures out of stone. I want to carve before I get more old or die. I want to take out the masterpiece and put it there outside [to] let people see what I really wanted to say before I go down.

MP: This is interesting because I know you did ceramic sculptures before but they’re quite small.

SP: They’re too small (laughs), I have to go big now.

MP: So how long have you been dreaming of making these big stone sculptures?

SP: It’s a long time but there was no way to tell it but the feeling grows more stronger now.

MP: How do you feel about how you are received in as an artist, do you think that the art world has been fair to you?

SP: Not so much….the art world was fair but a lot of artists grow more stronger and lot of strong people meet them and help them up. I mean we’re struggling in small studios, in places like this. This is a small room, I can’t express myself bigger and bigger and open up my heart. You just have to work in a small place and try to express yourself and say “hey I’m around too, look at me. You can use me. You can just ask me, I’ll do…” but maybe people don’t trust, I don’t know [if] they trust us or not but my brain and my heart and my hands can stand for anything.

MP: I’m looking at the new Bell Roberts book [10 years 100 artists edited by Sophie Perryer] where its nice to see you included with the other artists for a change. They didn’t leave you out this time but they leave out your paintings. Your prints are there. But when I look at your paintings I think they are most personal works

SP: That’s it.

MP: How do you feel that your paintings are not being seen because your graphics are being seen. Some people think you’re just a printmaker, but I think you’re a painter.

SP: What happened [is that] Sharlene [Khan, a contributor to the book] said there was a lot of paintings and there was not much print works in the book. They needed prints, they didn’t need paintings, so there was no other way I can put my paintings in the book.

MP: Your paintings are going to private clients mainly?

SP: A lot.

MP: But when you sell your work in to people who take them overseas, how many of them are paintings that people in South Africa never see? Is it only a few or is it a lot?

SP: It’s a lot of paintings that went overseas already… they’ve gone, [for example] there was one client that they want us to paint a lot of paintings and come from overseas. They just come and collect those paintings and pay, that’s all. So I still don’t know where these paintings are, and that client has gone…

This essay featured in the catalogue for Botaki Exhibition 3: Conversations with Sophie Peters, an exhibition curated by Mario Pissarra for Old Mutual Asset Managers, Cape Town , 2005

Sophie Die Heldersiende KunstenaarDalena Van Jaarveld Kuier. 25 November 2009

Beyond Borders. Voyage Ensemble Sipho Velaphi & Linda Nkosi Ngwenya. Rootz. 2007

A cry from the heart: Sophie Peters

Her days are numbered Sanlam Exhibition

Black Artists Exhibit:Truth,reconciliation in art Lloyd Pollak. Cape Times. 29 September 1999

Breek of baas
Marie Claire. June 1997

Read article

Resolute Sophie Fulfills her dream The Argus. 14 June 1995

Read article

Life’s experiences as art Gareth Van Blerk. June 1995

Life and art: Sophie’s choice Shannon Neill. South Side 9. April 1994

Sophie Skets’wat sy voel’ Shireen Adams. Metro- Burger. Dongerdag. 25 November 1993

Sophie Peters. Group Show

“Voyage Ensemble, A Journey Together” , Scalabrini Centre, Cape Town 2007. Exhibition booklet.

“voyage ensemble, a journey together” , scalabrini centre, cape town 2006