Emma Willemse

Discover Whole Worlds Between Covers at Spier’s New Exhibition, Disrupt II

Spier is now home to Disrupt II, an exhibition showcasing Emma Willemse’s artworks, exhibited at the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in 2018, which have been brought back to South Africa by Spier Arts Trust to be shown on home soil.

The focus of Disrupt II is a range of new works, dealing with the theme of disruption, evoking the zeitgeist of our times. The installation includes a selection from the artist’s series of 101 handmade artist books, entitled “101 ways to long for a home” seeks to subvert the traditional notion of linear word-based storytelling. It employs a fragmented visual language and relies on the multi-layered meanings generated by found material. The discarded parquet floor blocks featured in the intricate construction of the books and objects are sourced from Woodstock in Cape Town, where a gentrification process causes the demolition of old homes and buildings.

“Displacement from a ‘home’ is a theme that echoes in a number of works and naturally links up neatly with her novel material: reclaimed parquet flooring,” says arts writer Mary Corrigall. “This disused material obviously evokes a ‘home’ but also a history of a place and movements in it that leave a trace. Floorboards are perhaps an overlooked archive of human movement that allude to the multiple histories and experiences that are very subtly embedded in its surface.”

The books’ covers, she adds, “are the repositories for everyday experiences on the outside, while inside they contain the magical nuggets, which might be bold cutouts that pop into view or very fine drawings that gradually blossom into view via a concertina of pages.”

Disrupt II is an interactive exhibition: visitors are invited to explore each book on show – there are plenty of enticing surprises to discover by flipping through their pages. The exhibition is open daily from 9am to 5pm until Friday 22nd April 2022 in Spier’s Old Wine Cellar and is free to the public.

Emma Willemse


Emma Willemse is a conceptual artist and art educator living and working in Riebeek Kasteel, in the Swartland region of the Western Cape. Her art-making practice deals with issues of displacement, place-making and sense of place. She holds a Master’s degree in Visual Arts from the University of South Africa and qualifications in psychology and librarianship. Her artworks are technically varied, and include sculptural installations, printmaking, artist’s books, painting and drawing.

Emma has exhibited extensively in South Africa, Africa and abroad, and her works have been included in the Art Bank Joburg, Nando’s Collection, the South African Embassy in Beijing and the Spier Collection.

Her award-winning artist’s books installation, consisting of 101 handmade books, have been exhibited in various configurations in Stellenbosch and Johannesburg, South Africa; Florence, Italy; Paris, France; London, UK; and at the Dak’Art Biennale in Senegal.