HDR Confirmation Presentation - Johanna Butt - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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HDR Confirmation Presentation - Johanna Butt

We would like to invite you to attend the Confirmation Presentation of Johanna Butt, a Doctor of Philosophy candidate in the School of Social Sciences.

Thesis Title: The garment as an object of suppression of cultural identity in contemporary South Africa

When: Tuesday 25 August 2020

​Where: This presentation will be held via Zoom

Zoom Link: https://usc-au.zoom.us/j/94774247752


The focus of this research is how Ndebele women in South Africa use the garment as a tool to express identity. Understanding how the Ndebele women have applied their creativity to construct their identities from a historical as well as from a contemporary point of view, is central to the study. The research will investigate how historical and global processes have transformed the ways in which Ndebele women express their identity through the use of the garment, and what has influenced the way they dress today. The study will contribute to broader understanding of identity expression and behavioural patterns of Ndebele women in villages and urban areas in South Africa.

This qualitative participatory action research will take place in KwaNdebele, the cultural homeland of the Southern Ndebele, as well as in Pretoria and Johannesburg. Participants will include Ndebele women who are artists and young urban residents. Facebook page engagement will also occur with Ndebele individuals in urban areas who embraces the traditional garment as a form of self-expression.

The outcome of the research will be showcased in a curated art exhibition. Visual expression will be conceived from new ways of looking and thinking, informed by ideas, thoughts and concepts uncovered through my research. The exhibition will have significant historical value pertaining to identity creation by the women of the Southern Ndebele tribe. The exhibition will be supported by a written exegesis as well as a webpage, making it accessible to all participants as well as a worldwide audience.


Johann Butt’s interest in identity stems from having grown up in South Africa during the Apartheid Era, where she experienced and witnessed the result of manipulation of identity of individuals of all races.

These experiences had a profound impact on Johanna, resulting in her migration to Australia to pursue a career in Interior Design for retail. Johanna’s work in branding, interior design, product development and customer profiling took her to work as head designer and trainer with retail chains in Europe, the UK and New Zealand.

Working as interior designer, starting from empty space, presents one with the ability to manipulate individual behaviour through various design applications. Results of Johanna’s design work has been documented through observation of individual behaviour and subsequent results in sales. This background in design paved the way, after leaving her position in retail design, to pursue her own creative practice and to further explore space and expression of identity through art. She subsequently obtained a BA in Art and Culture through Curtin University and a Master in Cross Disciplinary Art and Design at the University of New South Wales.

Currently Johanna’s creative practice and exploration of identity is extended through her PhD research in the School of Social Sciences and School of Creative Industries at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

We look forward to seeing you there!