Jeannette Unite

b. Cape Town, 1964

Jeannette Unite explores Africa’s industrial landscape producing vivid and commanding works in diverse media.

Arts Education

1996 Unisa, Part time, Fine Art
1985 BA Fine Art, University of Cape Town

Exhibitions (solo)

2023 What's Yours is Mined!, Rust-en-Vrede Gallery, Durbanville, Cape Town
2011 Paradox of Plenty, Michaelis Upper Gallery, University of Cape Town
2010 Fragile Earth, Grande Provence, Franschhoek, Cape Town
2009 Headgear, Turbine hall, Gold of Africa Museum, Johannesburg; Headgears, 9th Tashkent Biennale, Central Asia, Uzbekistan
2008 Remembering the Future, Western Cape Archive Repositary, Cape Town
2007 Hot Earth, Namakwaland – Copper, Thompson Gallery, Johannesburg
2004 Earthscars, A Visual Mining Exploration ‐ Diamonds, Gallery@157, Johannesburg; William Humphreys Gallery, Kimberley; Mozambique National Gallery; Irma Stern Museum, UCT, Cape Town
2002 Sentences, London Zebra Two
2001 Sentences, Bell-Roberts Contemporary Gallery, Cape Town
1999 Thresholds, Irma Stern Museum, UCT
1995 Recent Works, Chelsea Gallery Abstracts, Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town
1993 Recent Works, AVA, Cape Town
1990 Sensuous Images, Wandel Street Gallery, Cape Town

Exhibitions (group)

2017 TAG: Celebrating Greatmore and Thupelo
2016 Beyond Binaries. Essence Festival, Durban
2012 HAWK Group Art Intervention, (curated by Lien Botha) Overberg, Western Cape
2012 Return to the Archive, Museum Africa, Johannesburg
2011 Iizkhwepha Zhetu /Shaping our Minds, (curated by Phumzile Dlamini), Durban Art Gallery
2011 3 Parts: More Harmony, South African, United Emirates & Mozambique artists (curated by Phumzile Dlamini), Durban Art Gallery
2011 Alumni Exhibition & Auction, Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town
2010 6 Meters Under, 4th Beijing International Art Biennale, China
2010 The Lie of the Land: Representations of the South African Landscape, (curated by Michael Godby), Iziko Michaelis Collection, Old Town House
2010 Fragile Earth Glass, Project room, Grande Provence Gallery, Franschhoek
2010 TERRA: Above Below, Oliewenhuis Museum, Bloemfontein
2010 Salon de Confuses, (curated by Andrew Lamprecht) Rose Korber Salon
2009 On Top of the World, (curated by Andre Vorster)
2008 Remembering the Future, Western Cape Archives and Records Services, Old Gaol Building, Roeland Street, Cape Town
Restructuring the Colonial,Thompson Gallery, Johannesburg
2007 Visions of Africa,Pretoria Art Museum,Pretoria
2006 HERM-Boundaries Between Wild & Cultivate, Ann Bryant East London
2005 Portraits,Scarlett Gallery, Greytown.GunfreeSA, Constitution Hill Auction,Johannesburg
2004 Surfacing (with Lynee Lomofsky),Unite Studio Gallery, Cape Town. On The Wall, Earls Court London.Clementina’s Art Gallery,Kalkbay, Cape Town
2003 S.U.M. Bag Factory Residency Exhibition,Fordsburg Art Studios,Johannesburg; The Foundary,Cape Town
1994 Musee D’art Contemp Internationale, Franc Print Trienniale
1993 Aids Awareness,AVA. Brides, Irma Stern Museum, UCT. In Black And White,ISANG
1992Flash Of The Spirit,Baxter Theatre Gallery.Art Now, AVA
1990 Critics Choice, AVA
1989 Red Cross Charity Ceramics Exhibition-Travelled Nationally
1981 Kelloggs Young Artists Exhibition, Cape Town

Workshops & Residencies

2011 Artist-in-Situ, Michaelis Galleries,UCT
2003 Bagfactory, Johannesburg
2001 Thupelo Workshop, Iziko South Africa National Gallery, Cape Town
1999 Thupelo Workshop, ISANG, Cape Town


Development Bank of South Africa
Isiqithi HQ, Johannesburg
UCT Chemical Engineering Building, Cape Town
William Humphreys Museum, Kimberley
Department of Science and Technology, CSIR Building, Pretoria
Clifford Chance, Belgium; Old Mutual Place, London


2006 Award winning artist in double show. Daily Despatch, May 24
2004 Earthscars. The Star, Johannesburg, Dec. 16. Die swaar voet van die mense. Die Beeld, Dec.
2004 Pick of the week. Cape Town Mail & Guardian, February 20
2004 Energy, emotion and eco-morality. Cape Times, February 25
2004 Minerals incorporated into artists palette. Monday Paper vol. 23. Johannesburg Mail & Guardian, March 1
2002 Gallery scores a major coup with artwork by Nelson Mandela
2002 Ham & High, October 18. Chicken livers with Chocolate sauce. Sinday Times Metro, January 27
2002 Staussin musiikki juhlistiuudenpaaiva Helsingissa. Hesingin Sanomat, January
2001 S.A. art in Finland. Weekend Argus, December 15
2001 Music bring paintings to life. Argus, April 17
2001 Kaukainen Etela-Afrikka onkin hyvin laheinen. Helsingin Sanomat, December
1998 My week in pictures. Sunday Life, November 22
1994 Jeannette unites vibrant energy with her artwork. Sunday Times, May 22
1992 Angry artist puts violence on her walls. Cape Times. Bushmen Art. Cape Times
1990 Female nudes lost in paint. Cape Times, April 9. Artist work strong, thick & gestural. Argus, March 23
1981 Kellogg’syoung artists award. Sunday Times, October 18


2011 AEGIS Travel Grant to University Autonoma, Madrid Spain
2009 Art Moves Africa (AMA) Travel Grant for Research in Africa
2009 Tashkent Biennale Merit Award for the most original use of natural materials in her work
2006 Glass Wall Installation, Public Art Commission Award, CSIR Building Department of Science and Technology, Tshwane, Pretoria
2004 Oliewenhuys Competition (Glass & Steel Water Sculpture) Shortlisted
2004 Constitutional Hill (Glass & Steel Water Sculpture) Shortlisted
1981 Kelloggs Young Artists Award First Prize competition 4 Year International Art Scholarship

Teaching (art workshops)

2009 Artist materials workshops, Nairobi
2003 Bagfactory staff education
2002-2008 Corporate equity, Old Mutual
1999-2000 Vukani, Nyanga Township, Cape Town Art
1987-1997 Frank Joubert Art & Design Centre (special needs education), Printmaking – etching/ silkscreen/ lino relief printing. Foundation School Art, Education department UCT, Pinelands Adult Education
1986 Franschhoek Art Gallery, facilitator of workshops


Terra : Jeannette Unite (Catalogue)

TERRA: Mining the Artist’€™s Paintbox from the African Industrial Landscape

Ten years ago I started spending time on mines. My shock response to the 40-year old diamond prospecting pits on the paleaolithic African West Coast beach deposits resulted in the first body of work I exhibited as “Earthscars: A Visual Mining Exploration”€ in 2004. This show has travelled in different forms to site significant cities and galleries around the SADC countries. Mining has defined African cultural and socio-political identity and the impact of colonialism and globalization affects how we occupy our current landscape.

The work expanded from Earthscars to exploring rehabilitation plants and environmental relationships. Conversations around visual interpretation of the extractive industry with geologists, engineers, metallurgists, and industrialist’s have further expanded my understanding of mining. I have developed paint and pastel and glass recipes from the advice of earth scientists, geo-chemists, paint-chemists and a ceramicist to develop this ‘€˜eco-alchemic’€™ work.

Over the past decade visual explorations include journeys to Namaqualand, Simon van der Stel’s copper mine, the first colonial mine from 1685, to harbours and construction sites and visits to active gold, coal, salt, manganese, titanium and platinum as well as obsolete and archaeological mine sites. I take photographs from these travels and duplicate images from mining museums and archives, the internet, mining journals and libraries. But the most significant treasures I get from mines are the sands and detritus soiled with history.

My pallette is jars filled with metalliferous and diamondiferous mine dump sand, dust, overburden and metal oxides. My artworks incorporate industrial waste containing enough metal to yield startling colour when molten in kilns in extreme temperatures. The artist as end user of mining re-establishes the art and science link and reminds us that pre-industrial era artists used pestles and mortar in art production. The abstract chthonic glass panels are constructed from recycled detritus and sometime toxic material like lead, arsenic and cyanide that catalyse the mineral and metal reactions.

My material is both subject and object of this corpus of work. Abstract landscapes are made from the actual landscape in a ‘beauty-from-waste’ aesthetic.

I am currently investigating a way to transform current research into work around the issues of the Resource Curse, also known as the ‘paradox of plenty’€™.

Jeannette Unite March 2010

* Originally posted on Frontier Country by Rat Western


Terra NovaAndrew Lamprecht & Ivor Powell (Eds)

Andrew Lamprecht & Ivor Powell (eds) – Jeannette Unite: Terra

Andrew Lamprecht & Ivor Powell (eds) – Jeannette Unite: Terra


A Peer-Reveiwed 192 Full-Colour Monograph on 2 decades of research.2012

Read book

Headgear: Mining Engineering Drawings
Critical Interventions, 6: 91-101, Spring 2010

TERRA: Sands and Detritus Soiled with History
Art South Africa, 9(1):98-9, Spring 2010

Exploring the Visual Residues of Colonial Exploitation
Nukta Art:Contemporary Art Magazine of Pakistan. 5 (1): 80-85. 2010