Photo of Patricia de Villiers

Patricia de Villiers

b 1950, Cape Town

Patricia de Villiers is an artist, illustrator and designer. She has been active as a cultural worker since the early 1970s contributing to various community organisations including the Community Arts Project in the 1980s.

Born nearly 66 years ago in Cape Town of an Afrikaans father and an English mother.

Schooled in numerous places and received an education (of a sort) in fine art at what was then the Johannesburg College of Art, primarily dedicated to the production of ‘commercial artists’, teachers and, above all, industrial designers.

Fled the miseries and artificialities of apartheid in the early 1970’s to study and then practice stage design in London. Drawn by Marxism and Feminism I joined a touring theatre company that made plays ‘with and about’ the trade union movement and drew its inspirational roots from Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil as well as the folk tradition of the broadside ballad.

Post 1976, I resolved to return to South Africa, and decided that my most practical contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle was to become a printer. I then learnt the trade (with limited success) at a Cooperative Press where I learned in particular to throw large reams of paper up the stairs. I was also schooled in the politics of the ANC but was finally (I thought shamingly) advised that I was ‘probably most suited to cultural work’.

I returned to Cape Town in the early eighties and soon discovered that the local printing trade did not accommodate white female offset litho machine operators. However, after a period back in theatre with the People’s Space, I was introduced to the Community Arts Project at a serendipitous moment  – just after the Gaborone Arts Festival when the assembled artists poets and performers were buzzing with excitement and resolve.

Joined and remained for 10 years with the Silkscreen Workshop aka Poster Workshop aka Media Project. After a quiet beginning, with the launch of the UDF and thereafter until the end of the decade, the workshop became a production line for hand-printed posters, banners and T-shirts, enthusiastically, if somewhat wildly, produced by youth groups, civics and community organisations of various affiliations. Our efforts to move with the times and become a training centre rather than a ‘service organisation’ never quite took off – the prescience of IBM in showering computers across the liberation movement meant that our methodologies and love of the silkscreen took on a quaint and nostalgic aspect.

After the birth of my daughter (in the nick of time, given my age) I turned to illustration, poster making and cartoon strips for both adults and children. This enjoyable, poorly paid, and, at times, lonely and apparently irrelevant, occupation was followed by an opportunity to work in the newly designed provincial health department. Here I spent 15 years striving to fit my rough round peg into the infinitely square, finely chiseled and intellectually challenging hole that is the health sector.

These days I am busy oiling my rusty artistic cogs with a view to doing, full-time, what I think I do best and certainly love the most – drawing, painting and making things with my hands.


1990 Advanced Diploma in Adult Education (Distinction)
Centre for Adult & Continuing Education (CASE), University of the Western Cape, South Africa.
1981 Certificate in Reprographics (day-release), London College of Printing, London, United Kingdom.
1973 Theatre & Costume Design (certificated, I year course), Sadler’s Wells Design School, London.
1972 National Diploma in Fine Arts (Distinction), Johannesburg School of Art, South Africa.


1997-2012 Deputy Director: Health Promotion, Western Cape Health Department.
1989-1997 Various projects with Community Arts Project
Posters, illustrations to support the ANC electoral campaign (voluntary)
1982–1989 Founder member and later Project Coordinator of Community Arts Project (CAP) Poster Workshop, later the CAP Media Project.
Stage Management & costume design for People’s Space Theatre until 1983.
1971–1981 Resident designer, co-writer/producer with Broadside, a national touring workers’ theatre company, London.
Lithographic printer, Spiderweb Print Cooperative, London.
Free-lance stage and costume designer in London, Birmingham and Bristol, UK.

Published Works

1989-1997 Cartoon booklets and other materials for adults for CRIC, Grassroots Educare. ELRU, Juta, Maskew Miller Longman, Catholic Welfare Department.
Series of cartoon strips and information booklets for the Constutional Assembly
Thirteen fully-illustrated children’s books and numerous contributing illustrations and posters for Juta, Maskew Miller Longman, OUP, Heinemann, Kagiso