Focused on the discovery of unorthodox creative talent, ADA crafted an interdisciplinary, pluralistic form of journalism that remains a testimony to transformation for the still young democracy of South Africa today.

Edited by art critic, Jennifer Sorrell, ADA was a South African cultural magazine first published in 1986 during the height of the apartheid era. Its name is an abbreviation for “Architecture, Design, Art”, which also acted as the magazine’s tagline and effectively defined the focus of the publication. Most issues were printed using a large A3 format, with a design approach typical of the late ’80s zeitgeist in South Africa concurrent to the resistance movements fighting against apartheid, just before independence and the rise of democracy. As such, the magazine delivered an alternative type of journalism that was metropolitan and interdisciplinary, true to the spirit of resistance and transformation in SA at the time, and envisioned a prospective post-apartheid cultural identity.

Fourteen issues were sporadically published between 1986 and 1996. Although it could be argued that architecture is design within the scope of the magazine, art was seen to be a looser term comprising various art forms, including the fine arts, music, literature, dance, theatre, and many more. ADA discovered and supported now-important local talents, all historical contributors to SA culture, many of whom have themselves become cultural establishments.

There are too many significant moments in the magazine’s history to mention but some highlights include #1, which introduced Manfred Zylla; #7, which featured Helen Sebidi; #8, which featured Fook island ‘citizen’ Norman Catherine on the cover; #9, which profiled George Pemba; #11, which included an early Bitterkomix comic-strip titled “Suidoos” by Conrad Botes; #13, which had a photomontage of president Nelson Mandela by Lien Botha and an interview by Pieter-Dirk Uys with Madiba — the list goes on. The final issue, #14, published in 1996, featured contemporary legends David Goldblatt, Steven Cohen, William Kentridge, and Penny Siopis, to name a few.

Perhaps the most-popular issues were the cultural “A to Z” profiles, which focused on the three largest cities in SA — Cape Town (#11), Durban (#12), and Johannesburg (#14) — which gradually developed a quasi-avant-garde narrative surrounding each scene. Based on the creative energy and cultural verve of the time, perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned from ADA’s prolific formula: intentionally producing culture as opposed to blindly consuming it.

A quasi-avant-garde, socio-cultural, historico-urban documentation of the events that happened between the late '80s and the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994.

ADA no.1 (not in collection)

Year: 1986
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennifer Sorrell, Manfred Zylla.
Other details: Very first issue of ADA, poster by Manfred Zylla inside. Full-colour printing, large format, rare.

ADA no.2

Year: 1986
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennifer Sorrell, Jackson Hlungwane, Tito Zungu, Stanley Saitowitz.
Other details: Full-colour printing, large format, rare.

ADA no.3

Year: 1987
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennifer Sorrell.
Other details: Full-colour printing, large format, rare.

ADA no.4

Year: 1987
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennifer Sorrell
Other details: Full-colour printing, large format, rare.

ADA no.5

Year: 1988
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennifer Sorrell.
Other details: Full-colour, large format, rare.

ADA no.6

Year: 1988
Pages: 48
Print run: NA
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennifer Sorrell
Other details: Full-colour, large format, rare.

ADA no.7

Year: 1990
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennifer Sorrell.
Other details: Full-colour printing, large format, rare.

ADA no.8

Year: 1991
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennifer Sorrel.
Other details: Full-colour printing, large format, rare.

ADA no.9

Year: 1991
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennifer Sorrel.
Other details: full-colour printing, large format, rare.

ADA no.10 – Special Edition Johannesburg

Year: 1992
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennifer Sorrell.
Other details: Full-colour printing, large format, rare.

ADA no.11 – Cape Town A to Z

Year: 1993
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennife Sorrell.
Other details: Full-colour printing, large format, rare.

ADA no.12 – Durban

Year: 1994
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennife Sorrell.
Other details: Full-colour printing, large format, rare.

ADA no.13 – State of the Art

Year: 1994
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennife Sorrell.
Other details: Full-colour printing, large format, rare.

ADA no.14 – Johannesburg Cultural A to Z

Year: 1995
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennife Sorrell.
Other details: Full-colour printing, large format, rare.

ADA – Destination Cape Town

Year: 1996
Pages: 48
Print run: N/A
Size: A3
Contributors: Jennife Sorrell.
Other details: Full-colour printing, large format, rare.

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