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Kali van der Merwe


Kali van der Merwe was born in Johannesburg and re-named herself after the fierce Indian Goddess of creation and destruction.

Kali’s work merges boundaries between art, science, biology, astronomy and taxidermy, entering into the realms of imagination and magic. She explores trajectories between real and fictional, traversing nuanced interconnections between death and life. She recently had a solo show at Iziko South African (Natural History) Museum, which was well received by local and international audiences resulting in the museum extending the exhibition.

Kali’s formal study is a Fine Art Degree majoring in sculpture, yet while living in Berlin, she developed an interest in photography and filmmaking, and went on to an award-winning documentary film career spanning almost two decades.

Nine years ago, Kali moved from the city of Cape Town to her current location on a remote farm near the tiny village of Baardskeerdersbos. During this period she lost her eyesight which was dramatically restored via cataract eye operations. The fascination with detail in her work attests to her renewed bionic vision.

Kali's inspiration surrounds her in the form of wild animals, plants and insects which she images in multiple mediums and immersive contexts hoping to inspire a sense of curiosity, connection and wonder.

‘I aspire to expand concepts of our context. The Hubble telescope has imaged more and more of the seemingly boundless universe. I have used these awe-inducing, re-orienting photographs to situate my flora and fauna theatre interplays, fluctuating between the polarities of the infinite and infinitesimal, with an eye on the indivisible whole.

At this historical juncture, the imbalances human destructive forces have wreaked are noticeable. I feel it is important to give image and agency to the natural world we are destroying. Beauty is a useful tool for inspiring value and emotional connection. If anyone viewing my creations can come away with a sense of marvel, mystery, deeper connection, greater affection or empathy for the creatures and plants we share our greater context with, then I feel I have made a tiny contribution to a hopefully expanding awareness of our mutual interconnectedness.’