Denise Onen: Understanding, © Lili Bo Ming

Oscillations. Cape Town – Berlin
Sonic Inquiries and Practices

Sound Art Exhibition

Critical listening is the first step toward an ethics and aesthetics of care and freedom. Discarding listening habits and accepting new sound qualities afford access to other layers of history and experience. Artists from South Africa and Germany share their listening experiences in new sound works. They reveal fractures in South Africa’s post-apartheid society, offer modes of transformation and healing, and question the ownership of sound in a postcolonial transhemispheric frame of reference.

The title Oscillations refers, in the first instance, to the physical space in which vibrations develop, combine, and reverberate and in which we perceive them audibly. It also opens up a metaphorical space for translations, transmissions, vibrations and transformations as variations of a sonic engagement with the world, the environment and forms of cultural dialogue.

The project is driven by the desire to eliminate economic and cultural hegemonies and arrive at a deeper understanding of diversity without invoking stereotypical images. Sounds from familiar and unfamiliar environments are deconstructed and reconstructed, unfolding a wealth of meaning to listeners. Indigenous sound practices and spirituality are combined with the latest technologies and contemporary forms of artistic expression.

During a two-year process, the project partners – the Akademie der Künste, the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape and Deutschlandfunk Kultur – have created a space for exchange, artist residencies, collaboration, and the creation of new sound works. Seven artists were selected on the basis of an open call in southern Africa and, together with three “catalytic artists”, they form the project’s artistic team. Residencies in Berlin and Cape Town were set up to facilitate research, sound recordings and the development of project-specific technologies for the new works. Under the guidance of a steering committee drawn from the various institutions cooperating on the project, all the different components were calibrated and tuned to one another.

In September 2023, a four-day workshop – including presentations, performances, panels and lectures – was held at the newly opened Iyatsiba Lab, an artistic and scholarly laboratory in Cape Town’s Woodstock neighbourhood that forms part of the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape. The workshop was led and attended by the artists and researchers involved in the Oscillations project, participants from the university milieu and international guests, who came together to reflect on sound as movement and to listen to different acoustic practices. The project grew out of this intensive process of exchange.

The newly created sound works are now assembled in dialogue in the exhibition at the Akademie der Künste. In parallel, the research has given rise to radio productions broadcast on Deutschlandfunk Kultur. On the opening weekend, the installative works will be accompanied and augmented by performances, DJ sets, artist tours and talks.

The Oscillations artists are:

Muhammad Dawjee is a musician, composer, architect, researcher and educator from the Indian apartheid group area Laudium on the western outskirts of Pretoria. He sees improvisation as a research process and is particularly interested in the identities of brown people(s) living in South Africa.

Garth Erasmus is a visual artist, sound artist and musician whose work focuses on South Africa’s First Nation people, the Khoisan, which is his heritage. He is based in Cape Town.

Zara Julius is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher based in Johannesburg. Her practice is informed by her methodology of “rapture”. Through extensive research, Zara’s work engages the anarchive and the Black sonic to reconstitute time in the face of unfreedoms.

Nkosenathi Koela is an instrument maker and multi-instrumentalist exploring healing practices through sound, creating space that manifests spiritually and materially. Koela’s transdisciplinary practice encompasses being an African Indigenous sound medium, specialist and teacher. The artist is based in Cape Town.

Following her academic music studies, Christina Kubisch began to create site-specific sound installations and mixed media work. Her research on electromagnetic waves and other hidden sounds makes audible phenomena that usually lay beyond human perception. The artist is based in Berlin.

Mpho Molikeng is a musician, composer, author and curator born in Maseru, Lesotho, who plays a number of African instruments such as lesiba, mamokhorong, setolo-tolo, mbira, djembe and others. The artist is based in Pretoria.

Gabi Motuba is a jazz vocalist, sound artist, composer and arranger based in Johannesburg. Her main instrument is voice, which she utilises to think through and explore various concepts, ideas and questions.

Neo Muyanga is a composer and installation artist based in Cape Town. His work traverses new opera, multimedia installations, performance lectures and commercially released music albums. His practice, informed by archival research, straddles the spheres of performance and scholarship.

Denise Onen is a sonic cultural practitioner pursuing an MMus at the University of Cape Town. As an active sound designer and composer, her sonic artistry in film, documentaries, and theatre has garnered prestigious international features and awards.

Lucy Strauss is a bio/computational artist doing a PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Kirsten Reese is a composer and sound artist based in Berlin. Her works focus on the interrelation of immersive listening, body, social perception, loudspeaker constellations and electronic media.


“We are grateful for the intense impact these oscillations have had on our ways of conceiving sound, art and knowledge. Together, we look forward to hearing their reverberations in the social space constituted by this exhibition.

Our special thanks go to the ten Oscillations artists: Muhammad Dawjee, Garth Erasmus, Zara Julius, Nkosenathi Koela, Christina Kubisch, Mpho Molikeng, Gabi Motuba, Neo Muyanga, Denise Onen, Kirsten Reese.”

Aidan Erasmus, Julia Gerlach, Marcus Gammel, Heidi Grunebaum, Valmont Layne, Lee Walters (The Steering Committee)

Oscillations is a project of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape (Cape Town) and Deutschlandfunk Kultur / Klangkunst (Berlin).

Sponsored by the TURN2 fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation. Sponsored by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

Supported by the DAAD arts & media programme, Kulturstiftung Schloss Wiepersdorf and National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS).


Media Partners



© Garth Erasmus

Kirsten Reese, 2023, Südafrika, © Tom Thiel

Nkosenathi Koela: Ikroza LesiNgqi, © Iman Adam

Christina Kubisch, 2023, Südafrika, © Tom Thiel

Zara Julius: Untitled I (2022), © Luke Pallett

Luca Forcucci, Mpho Molikeng, © Leon Krige

27 Apr — 19 May

Tue – Fri 2 – 7 pm
Sat & Sun 11 am – 7 pm

€ 9/6
Free admission under 18 years, Tuesdays and every first Sunday of the month


Opening Programme
Fri 26 Apr, starting at 7 pm
Presentations and performances by the Oscillation artists
Free admission

Sat 27 Apr, starting at 2 pm
Guided tours, talks, performances, DJ sets with the Oscillations artists et al.