Sophia Klaase lives on through her work at the Otterbein and the Arts: Opening Doors to the World Exhibition 2017-18

9 Nov 2017 - 11:15

Sophia Klaase (1982-2017), also known as Vytjie, was a local photographer from the village of Paulshoek in the Leliefontein communal area in Namaqualand and was well known to the Plant Conservation Unit (PCU). Under the leadership and guidance of Rick Rohde (University of Edinburgh, Centre of African Studies and PCU Honorary Research Associate) and PCU Director, Timm Hoffman, she produced a body of work of over 1,500 photographs which documented village life in Paulshoek over nearly two decades. Earlier this year, her photographs were published in a book titled, “Hanging on a wire: Photographs by Sophia Klaase”. The book was curated by Rick Rohde and Siona O’Connell who were also responsible for her work being exhibited at the University of Cape Town and the District Six Museum in 2013 (

Sophia’s photographs are so powerful that they caught the eye of Janice Glowski, the Museum and Galleries Director at Otterbein University in the USA, who chose to exhibit Sophia’s work at the “Otterbein and the Arts: Opening Doors to the World Exhibition” through Courtright Memorial Library at Otterbein University ( As part of Otterbein University’s ongoing commitment to global education, the exhibition has a multi-year focus on the arts in three non-Western regions including Latin America (2015-16), Asia (2016-17) and Africa (2017-18). Gateway countries for each year included Chile and Cuba for Latin America and India, Thailand, Tibet and China for Asia. For 2017-18, South Africa is the primary gateway country for Africa. Here, a selection of Sophia’s photographs is on display alongside South African photographer, Yasser Booley, as well as other contemporary artists from Africa.

Sophia’s photographic collection titled, “Extra Ordinary Lives: Portraits from a Divided Land” is on display for a few months from 21 August to 3 December 2017 in the Fisher Gallery, which is their most public exhibition space, situated in the centre of the Otterbein campus in the two-story atrium of Roush Hall. The exhibition was put together by Janice Glowski alongside Rick Rohde and Siona O’Connell who were included as curators of the exhibition. Sophia's photographs are displayed dramatically against a dark backdrop, which accentuates the intensity of the captured scenes (see below). Her photographs are said to have caused, ‘much discussion, critical thought and powerful emotion at times provoking unsettling feelings of discomfort’.

You can read more about the exhibition and artists here

~ Article written by Samantha Venter. Photographs provided by Janice Glowski.