Mission & Purpose

JCAF is an academic research institute, a platform for museum exhibitions and an innovative technology laboratory.

JCAF is a foundation dedicated to research, technology and art. As a hybrid institution, JCAF combines an academic research institute, an innovative technology laboratory and a platform for museum-quality exhibitions. JCAF is a non-collecting foundation, which does not own art or house a private art collection. Our ethos is to advance the appreciation of modern and contemporary art through the production, sharing and preservation of knowledge.

We are a centre for academic research. JCAF engages with specific influencers and forms select partnerships with professionals and academics locally and internationally to provide exceptional artistic programming and generate knowledge. Our exhibitions are curated according to a theme and include a film and music programme. We arrange cultural discussions and will publish a journal that follows a structured research methodology. JCAF explores the intersection of art and technology to create an integrated and immersive experience for visitors. It is a future-oriented institution, with online bookings, a website portal, an interactive touchscreen wall and an exhibition app that aims to foster a rewarding personal encounter between the visitor and the artwork, and to encourage exploration and intellectual engagement.


Knowledge Ecology

Architecture & Heritage

The building is a local heritage site and an important example of the Modern Movement. The conversion of the site preserves the modernist functionalism of the architecture while incorporating new, bespoke design elements.

The architects’ intention was to conserve the original character of the building in such a way as to ‘touch the building lightly’ by making sure all additions were subtly separated from the old and defined as new.

JCAF’s 450 m2 exhibition space is a museum-standard environment with UV-filtered glass windows, HVAC air temperature control (18–22°) and humidity control (55% RH), an FM200 gas-detection and fire-suppression system, a digital security system and an art storage-and-delivery area. A bespoke track system accommodates museum spotlights produced by Procédés Hallier. The result is a museum-standard environment for exhibitions that is the antithesis of the white cube.

Electric tram in downtown Johannesburg. Image courtesy gahetNA Nationaal Archief

Johannesburg is a city of rapid change and innovation, whose growth has accelerated in post-apartheid South Africa, driven by a need for social transformation and global connectedness within the African context. JCAF looks to this energy for inspiration, while seeking to serve as a place of intellectual and creative rigour, and contributing to the advancement of the city and society.

JCAF is located in a former electrical tram shed and substation that formed part of a network of trams that ran between 1906 and 1961. The first electric trams serviced the inner boundaries of old Johannesburg. Trams as a symbol of the urban suggest the rich heritage of JCAF’s location and its identification with the city. JCAF acknowledges this complex history while embracing an innovative approach to design.

Contemporary Johannesburg is a thoroughly polyglot urban formation whose influence, connections and identifications extend beyond its locality and well beyond South Africa. It is also an engine of art, architecture, music, fashion, theatre, literature and religious life.

Achille Mbembe and Sarah Nuttall


On the occasion of the launch of the foundation, JCAF presented a curated intellectual, artistic and culinary programme that included: a screening of the film ‘Reassemblage’ (1982) by Trinh T Minh Ha, a culinary collaboration between Head Chef Daniel Payne from the Four Seasons and artist Nandipha Mntambo, and the inaugural Lecture from the Global South presented by Arjun Appadurai.

Eighty-five guests, including academics, representatives of the diplomatic community, members of the creative industries, business, tech entrepreneurs and press, attended the event.

Molemo Moiloa welcomed guests as MC for the evening. Executive Director Clive Kellner introduced the foundation and its vision to guests. Professor Achille Mbembe has been a close associate of Professor Appadurai for many years and introduced him on the evening. Thereafter Professor Appadurai presented his lecture ‘The Planet, the Universe and the Museum: Territories of the Imperial Imagination’.

Launch of the JCAF Journal


The inaugural JCAF Journal: Interdisciplinary Knowledge from the South was launched on 1–2 December 2023 with a programme that included a symposium with contributing authors Pamila Gupta, Helena Chávez Mac Gregor and artist Nandipha Mntambo, as well as a performance of Pictures Reframed by Robin Rhode and Qden Blaauw, and the jazz performance Elusive Dreams in Jozi by the Afrikan Freedom Principle, led by Mandla Mlangeni.

Pictures Reframed is a unique performance centred around Modest Mussorgsky’s classical piano suite, combining music and Rhode’s signature visuals. The performance was presented in South Africa for the first time and performed by prodigy Qden Blaauw.

Elusive Dreams in Jozi explores the cacophony of rhythms, harmonies and melodies that invoke the spirit of the city affectionately known as Jozi. From the interlocking sounds of the mbira, to the call and response chants of isicathamiya, the sounds of Johannesburg have been kneaded by a propulsive energy struggling to be defined by a singular character.

The journal reflects on JCAF’s curatorial programme and research initiatives over the past three years: the first research theme, Female Identities in the Global South (2020–2022), focused on exhibiting only women artists as a way of amplifying the voices of those historically underrepresented in museum collections and exhibitions across the globe. The journal is available for free in an online digital format.

Explore the JCAF Journal here.