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The Imbali Visual Literacy Project heads to the Eastern Cape

The Imbali Visual Literacy Project, based in Johannesburg, has a long history of arts teacher training. Over the past 34 years, the organisation has trained visual art teachers in most areas of the country, and has worked with many of South Africa’s provincial education departments. Now, as they prepare to roll out the next stage of their introductory workshop series, Creative Feel takes a look at the continued success and value of the Imbali Artbooks.

Imbali artbooks Eastern Cape teacher workshops

The Imbali Artbooks: Adventuring Into Art – an art teachers’ resource

The Imbali Artbooks: Adventuring Into Art, is a boxed-set of large-format art educational resource books. Imbali’s primary intention in developing the series of artbooks is to provide rich teaching resources for schools that teach visual art. Aimed mostly at Senior Phase visual art teachers, the artbooks have been used at Intermediate and FET levels too. 

The books focus on South African art and artists. They guide teachers in art educational methodologies, engaging their learners in looking at and discussing artworks and also in art-making activities, techniques, and approaches.

Director of the Imbali Visual Literacy Project, Justine Watterson, explains that the development of the Imbali Artbook series is a direct response to an urgent need for quality visual art teaching resources appropriate for classrooms across South Africa and further afield.

‘At Imbali we believe strongly that art must be experienced. Children need to have access to art materials and guidance and encouragement to use these creatively and expressively. But just as importantly, they need to experience the joys of looking at art by having access to exciting and stimulating high quality reproductions of artworks that stimulate and encourage contemplation, engagement, and debate.’

Justine Watterson, Director of the Imbali Visual Literacy Project

‘It was important for us to create a one-stop resource, something teachers could use to inspire the development of rich and stimulating lesson content, something to enrich and extend the standard-issued textbooks. What started as a single book quickly evolved into eight books, because the layout and design was crucial, we wanted it to be visually exciting, with large format, high quality images and artworks that excited and inspired learners.’ 

There are seven volumes in the set, as well as an art teachers’ guide. Rather than replacing textbooks, The Imbali Artbooks are intended to extend and support the teaching of Senior Phase visual art. The content and activities of these books both enrich and fully support the CAPS curriculum.

The Imbali artbook introductory workshops and the value of collaboration and partnership

The Imbali Visual Literacy project has long harnessed the power of collaboration and partnership in its efforts to reach as many parts of the country as possible.

Imbali artbooks Eastern Cape teacher workshops
Boxes of art materials being packed for Eastern Cape roll out

A grant from the National Arts Council (NAC) supported the roll-out of the art books and introductory teacher workshops to the Northern Cape, North West, and Limpopo provinces. Owing to the vastness of the Northern Cape province, another sponsor, the NEA Foundation, a US based Organisation, funded additional workshops in De Aar, Upington, and Springbok. With the NAC funding, Imbali ran workshops in Kuruman and Kimberly in the Northern Cape, Lichtenberg and Mofokeng in the Northwest, and Tzaneen and Jane Furse in Limpopo.

With the support of the MTN SA Foundation, Imbali has managed to roll-out art books and introductory workshops in Kanyamazane, Siyabuswa, and Bethal in Mpumalanga; Botshabelo, Thaba Nchu, Bloemfontein, and Gariep in the Free State; and Cape Town in the Western Cape, all of which was done over 2019 – 2021.

Now, in 2021, Imbali are visiting the Eastern Cape, running four workshops in four towns, with teachers travelling from every district in the province. Early next year, the organisation will be doing three workshops in the Western Cape to cover the whole province.

Manager of MTN Art Collection, Niel Nortje, explains that for the MTN SA Foundation, such partnerships are rewarding on a number of levels.

‘The mandate for the MTN Art Collection, since it was officially launched in 1998, was for it to be utilised as an appreciating corporate asset for the development of educational arts and culture resources, and to improve public access to heritage treasures. This also develops provenance for the MTN Art Collection and is why our partnership with IMBALI has been so valuable. Artworks from the MTN collection feature quite extensively in the Adventuring Into Art series of resource books and the website has provided an exponential increase in access and utilisation for teachers… We are therefore very pleased and excited to offer the Eastern Cape this benefit and certain that it will also improve arts and culture teaching in this province with a proud reputation for producing some of South Africa’s most important artists.’  

Niel Nortje, Manager of MTN Art Collection
Imbali artbooks Eastern Cape teacher workshops
Imbali artbooks Eastern Cape teacher workshops

The Eastern Cape workshops

Working in close collaboration with the Eastern Cape Department of Education and with the support of the MTN SA Foundation, Imbali will be rolling out a series of introductory workshops across the Eastern Cape this October.

Although the books are carefully designed and written to guide the teacher step-by-step through each process, in order to maximise the successful implementation and use of these books in schools, it is beneficial to introduce teachers to the books in a practical, hands-on, face-to-face and experiential way. Through the Imbali Artbooks workshops, teachers are equipped with the necessary resources and tools required to integrate creative art into their lessons.

‘The workshops are designed to introduce teachers to the books, but most importantly to inspire them to teach visual arts in a hands-on and experiential way. During the workshop, teachers have the opportunity to explore 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional art making as well as a guided looking activity where they gain some experience of asking open-ended questions and looking closely at a particular image. At the end of the workshop, teachers, in addition to the book set, also receive an MTN backpack full of art materials to take back to their classrooms and immediately start implementing what they have learnt in the workshop.’

Justine Watterson, Director of the Imbali Visual Literacy Project

The one-day introductory workshop enables teachers to experience aspects of the books (e.g. sample activities and discussions) as demonstrations of how the books work. Workshops will also strictly adhere to all Covid-19 protocols

Support for these workshops comes from the MTN SA Foundation which is funding Imbali to provide 120 sets of books for the Eastern Cape – that’s one book each for 120 selected schools that teach Visual Art as one of the Creative Arts taught at Senior Phase level.

In the Eastern Cape Imbali will run four one-day workshops, from 08:00 – 15:30 each day with 30 teachers (from 30 schools) per workshop in the following centres:

  1. Gqeberha/Port Elizabeth: Monday 18 October 2021
  2. East London: Wednesday 20 October 2021
  3. Queenstown: Thursday 21 October 2021
  4. Mthatha: Friday 22 October 2021
Imbali artbooks Eastern Cape teacher workshops

Imbali and the MTN Foundation will fund most costs pertaining directly to the workshops. These include the 120 sets of Imbali Artbooks (costs shared and subsidised by The Imbali Visual Literacy Project), art materials packs for each teacher to use in their art classrooms with their learners, workshop material costs, facilitation fees and costs, and catering for all workshop participants.

The Eastern Cape Department of Education will ensure that the Subject Advisors (or relevant art education officials) in each district identify and liaise with the 120 participating schools to ensure participating art teachers are informed and present on the relevant day, that suitable accessible venues are identified and booked, to which the teachers can come together for each one-day introductory workshop, and that at the end of the workshop, teachers are given their sets of books to take back to their schools. 

Find out more about the Imbali Visual Literacy Project at

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