Ivonne Charlotte Marais

Ivonne Charlotte Marais

Research Student

Personal profile

Scholarly biography

Ivonne Charlotte is a AHRC funded Techne Collaborative Doctoral Studentship awarded PhD candidate at the University of Brighton focusing on decolonising museums and knowledge production around material culture. She has a BA in Art History and English and an Honours in Art History from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. In the United Kingdom she received a MA in Art History and Archaeology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and a Mphil in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology. Ivonne worked as an assistant curator at the Origins Centre in Johannesburg where she co-curated exhibitions focusing on South African rock art and the rock art and culture of the Sahara as well as spearheading education programmes. While in the United Kingdom she co-curated an exhibition on decolonising the art collection of Goodenough College in London and facilitated a decolonising the museum workshop at the Pitt Rivers Museum. She has undertaken archival research and collaborated with the Rock Art Research Institute on the Walter Battiss Archive. She was a teaching assistant at Carleton University from 2019-2020 teaching first year Anthropology and African Study students. Ivonne has presented her work on decolonising museums, with an emphasis on exploring the impact of labelling, museum practice and bringing African artistic histories to broader audiences, at multiple international conferences. Ivonne is a disability rights advocate with a focus on the rights of disabled students in higher education. This work has been published in the ISIS magazine.

Research interests

Ivonne is a decolonial scholar with a focus on sub-Saharan African material culture and art, museum histories and practice, and colonialism in Africa. She is a trained Art Historian and Anthropologist and therefore sees her practice as interdisciplinary. Much of her research is object lead focusing on object biographies and how material culture is a starting point for discussions around her broader research interests. Ivonne’s early research was focused on South Africa but this has shifted to a wider geo-political area. She is also interested in foregrounding scholars and cultural thinkers from this area in her work.

Her focus on museums began in her MA where Ivonne critiqued the disparities in knowledge produced about a nkisi displayed at the British Museum and the Songye people of Central Africa. This critique was centred around the use of labels and display in western museums. This was taken further in her MPhil which compared the display and labelling of South African beadwork at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford and the Wits Art Museum in Johannesburg. Here Ivonne focused more directly on decolonial scholarship and philosophy as well using a detailed museum ethnography to unpack the role of colonialism in western museums. This research also challenged concepts of art versus ethnographic object and the validity of western museum practice.

Ivonne is currently working on a Collaborating Doctoral Studentship with the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London to uncover how colonial histories of violence are embrocated in museum archives and how these destructive narratives continue to be present in museum displays and labels. This research seeks to find practical ways to decolonise archives and museums in collaboration with the museum. Much of Ivonne’s current interests are around imperial archives, the theory and practice of decolonialism from the global south, the geopolitics of knowledge, and museum practice in the west.

Education/Academic qualification

Master, MPhil Visual, Material, and Museum Anthropology, University of Oxford

Oct 2017Mar 2019

Master, MA Art History and Archaeology, SOAS University of London

Sept 2016Sept 2017

Bachelor, Honours Art History, University of the Witwatersrand

Jan 2015Dec 2015

Bachelor, BA Art History and English, University of the Witwatersrand

Jan 2013Dec 2014


  • NX Arts in general
  • Art History
  • African Art
  • JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
  • Colonial Historiography
  • African Colonialism
  • Postcolonial and decolonial theory
  • BH Aesthetics
  • Art Historiography
  • Phenomenology
  • GN Anthropology
  • Sensory Anthropology
  • Museum Ethnography
  • Anthropology of Art


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