Abigail Sarah Bagraim
M.F.A (cum laude), M.Soc. Sci., H.D.E.
I am a professional artist living and working in Cape Town, South Africa. My academic training has followed two parallel paths: Jewish studies and Fine Art. These have combined so that, on the one hand, my study of mystic and religious subjects provides inspiration for my painting while, on the other hand, the serene process of painting allows me to meditate and reflect on the wisdom of metaphysics.
Abigail Sarah Bagraim on SIMCHA
I obtained my Bachelor of Fine Art degree (B.F.A) and teacher’s Higher Education Diploma (H.D.E) at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. As a student my works were regularly exhibited on group shows. I then transferred to Cape Town where I commenced formal religious studies and completed courses in Religious Studies 1 and 11 as a part time student at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
I then returned to Grahamstown where I enrolled for a Master of Fine Art degree at Rhodes University. This degree involved both practical painting and the submission of a thesis. The topic of my thesis was ‘The Hasidic spirit as the Foundation of the Art of Marc Chagall.’ I was awarded my M.F.A degree cum laude in 1986.
Since then I have been based in Cape Town and the Wilderness where I live with my husband. While my children were very young I finalised my undergraduate studies of comparative religion by doing courses in The Bible as Literature, Religious Studies 111, and Hebrew Intensive (for which I was awarded the class prize in 1992) as a part time student at UCT.
During 1996 I enrolled for an Honours degree in the Religious Studies Department at UCT, which I later converted to a Masters degree. The title of my thesis was ‘Vision and Imagination in Jewish Mystical Texts’ and I was awarded the degree of Master of Social Science (M.Soc.Sci) at the end of 1998. I thus have Masters degrees in both Fine Art and in Religious Studies.
All the while I have continued to paint professionally and have held several solo exhibitions of my paintings at various galleries, such as the Gallery International and the Irma Stern Museum in Cape Town and the Natalie Knight Gallery in Johannesburg. I attended the Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town where I exhibited paintings representing Jewish Mysticism and lectured. I also exhibited in several group shows throughout the country and at the Grahamstown festival. I held an exhibition at the Café Riteve Gallery which was hosted by the South African Jewish Museum, where postcards of my works are on sale to the public. I have had numerous works published in and on the covers of magazines such as: Jewish Affairs, Jewish Heritage, Zionist Record, Celebration: The Jewish Lifestyle Magazine, and Odyssey magazine. Recently I some of my poetry was published in the Pesach 2016 and 2017 editons of the Jewish Affairs magazine. I have appeared on several television shows, including an SATV 3 programme titled: “Heart and Soul” featuring work, and in which I was interviewed and discussed the philosophies informing my works. In another SATV programme I discussed the works on the Marc Chagall “The Light of Origins” exhibition at the South African National Gallery.
In December 2015 I held a solo exhibition of my Holocaust Memorial Series of works at the Holocaust Centre in Cape Town, which was opened by Sir Mick Davis, a philanthropic businessman and President of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Leadership Council of the United Kingdom. The catalogue from that exhibition can be viewed in the “Holocaust” art category within the “My Art” page of this website. It contains images of all the works exhibited together with detailed explanations of the works. During December 2016 I published an illustrated booklet of my own poetry titled “Poetic Musings of Abigail Sarah” which can be viewed and on the “Poetry for the Neshama” page of this website. During April 2017 I exhibited some works on a group show titled “Instrumente Van Vrede” at the Breytenbach Centre in Wellington, which is housed in the old family home of the well know author and activist Breyten Breytenbach.
I often deliver slide shows of my paintings to Jewish and non-Jewish organisations which I greatly enjoy as I believe that I am able, through a combination of my art and the spoken word, to point my audience towards a visual understanding of important religious and spiritual precepts. In June, 1999 I delivered a lecture at the Sixth International Seminar on Jewish Art in Jerusalem. The title of my topic was: ‘The Hasidic Spirit as the Foundation of the Art of Marc Chagall.’
I have travelled extensively to broaden my perspective. Besides visiting Israel, the United Kingdom and most countries in Western Europe, I have visited diverse places in and off the coast of Africa (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zanzibar, Mauritius and Egypt) and in Eastern Europe (including Czechoslovakia, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland), as well as in India, Nepal, Vietnam and Cambodia. More recently I have decided to investigate and become involved in Jewish mystical Art in America.
I am currently studying at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, towards a PhD degree in the History of Art’ department. The title of my thesis is “The Shekhinah as a Multivalent Symbol in Chagall’s Work.”