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Sylvia Vollenhoven


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Philanthropist (Bronze)
Tomorrow's Leader Nominee 2013
Tomorrow's Leader Nominee 2014
Tomorrow's Leader Nominee 2015

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Sylvia Vollenhoven

Sylvia Elizabeth Vollenhoven

Author, Filmmaker & Visionary

Currently resides in: Western Cape, South Africa

Born 22-10-1952 in Cape Town South Africa

Author and award-winning Journalist Filmmaker. Her play MY WORD, REDESIGNING BUCKINGHAM PALACE was chosen for a run in London's West End alongside works by Athol Fugard and Reza de Wet. The Times of London gave it four stars. It was on the main programme of the National Arts Festival 2014 where COLD CASE, another play she co authored had its premiere. Shortlisted for the City Press Tafelberg 2012 inaugural non-fiction book award. Chief Executive of 'The Keeper of the Kumm' project: A multimedia venture comprising a novel, film and dance drama. A Knight Fellow who led a media project to improve coverage of poverty and development issues in Ghana.

Jury Member: SA Film & TV Awards (SAFTA) 2018, Alan Paton Sunday Times Literary Awards 2017 & Durban International Film Festival Documentary Awards 2015
Member: National Film & Video Foundation Documentary Selection Panel & Editorial Board of the Journal of African Cinemas.

Founder of Vision in Africa (VIA), that has spearheaded innovative international cross platform media training initiatives. As the Africa representative for the Thomson Foundation (UK) she was the lead trainer for the Foundation's first-ever documentary filmmaking course at Cardiff University. Her students’ work was chosen for screening on the UK’s Channel 4.

In the early 90’s, Vollenhoven was the Southern African Correspondent for the Swedish newspaper, Expressen, and was awarded Sweden’s top journalism prize by Scandinavia’s prestigious Publicist Klubben.

For a decade Vollenhoven was a TV executive at the SABC and was simultaneously the Southern Africa Coordinator for the International Public Television (INPUT) organisation.

Contact details

Web presence

Business Address

Basil Road, Cape Town, South Africa, 7801

Professional Portfolios

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The Keeper of the Kumm

in Portfolio

Professional details

Current Position(s)

Jury Member | Factual | SA Film & TV Awards (SAFTA)
Cape Town, South Africa | 2017 - present

Arts, Culture and Entertainment

Selecting the factual genre finalists for the SA Film and TV Awards (SAFTAs).

Panelist | Documentary Selection | National Film & Video Foundation
Johannesburg, South Africa | 2015 - present

Arts, Culture and Entertainment

Selecting the successful applicants for documentary development, production, post production and archive funding.

Editorial Board Member | Journal of African Cinemas
Johannesburg | 2007 - present

Academia, Education and Training

Chief Executive | The Keeper of the Kumm Transmedia Initiative
Cape Town, South Africa | 2006 - present

Arts, Culture and Entertainment

Managing Director | VIA - Vision In Africa (Pty) Ltd
Johannesburg | 2006 - present

Previous Position(s)

Knight Fellow | Development Journalism Fellowships | ICFJ - International Center for Journalists
Washington DC, United States of America | 2009 - 2011

Broadcast Media, Multimedia and Film

Lead Tutor | Thomson Foundation
United Kingdom | 2008 - 2008

Social Development and Community Services

Africa Representative | Thomson Foundation
United Kingdom | 2007 - 2009

Social Development and Community Services

Chairperson | Dream Weaver Trading (Pty) Ltd
Johannesburg | 2006 - 2009

Director | Khetha Media (Pty) Ltd
Johannesburg | 2006 - 2009

Head of Genre | Content Hub | South African Broadcasting Corporation
Johannesburg | 2004 - 2006

Broadcast Media, Multimedia and Film

Advisory Board Member | African Women's Media Centre
Dakar, Senegal | 1999 - 2005

Editor | Women's Edition
Washington | 1998 - 2003

Publishing, Printing and Print Media

Executive Producer | TV | South African Broadcasting Corporation
Johannesburg | 1994 - 2004

Broadcast Media, Multimedia and Film

Educational history


Argus Journalism School

Completed 1976




Mbokodo Award for Literature | 2016

This category celebrates fiction and biography, and also acknowledges important prose that speaks to the struggles of women in society. It honours creativity, imagination and originality. It acknowledges writers who are committed to their craft and strive to promote the genre.

Adelaide Tambo Award for Human Rights | 2014

The inaugural Adelaide Tambo Award for celebrating human rights through the arts was awarded COLD CASE, REVISITING DULCIE SEPTEMBER. It honours an artist or company whose work on the Fringe programme embodies Adelaide Tambo’s passion for the arts and her deep commitment for human rights. The Award has the support of the Tambo family.

Knight Fellowship | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation | 2009

Awarded a Knight Fellowship to lead a project to improve coverage of poverty and development issues in Ghana. The Fellowships make tangible changes that improve the quality and free flow of news in the public interest. The project was a programme of the International Center for Journalists in Washington DC.

Knight Fellowship | International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ)

Special Citation | Canadian Association of Journalists

Journalism & Media Award | SA Women for Women

Journalist of the Year Award | Publicist Klubben (Nordic Academy of Writers & Editors)

International Visitor's Grant | US Government

Journalism Exchange Programme | SA Council of Churches

Shortlist and nomination

Sunday Times Alan Paton Literary Award | 2016

The criteria set for the awards are: The illumination of truthfulness, especially those forms of it that are new, delicate, unfashionable and fly in the face of power; compassion; elegance of writing; and intellectual and moral integrity.

SA Literary Awards (SALA) | 2017

Nominee Creative non Fiction Award.

SA Film & TV Awards | 2016

Nominee SA Film & TV Awards 2016 for Best Director and Best Documentary.

City Press non Fiction Book Award | 2012

Shortlisted for the inaugural City Press Award and as a result Tafelberg will be publishing the book "The Keeper of the Kumm" in 2014.

media exposure

Daily Maverick | 2017

In a preliminary report, the Public Protector has recommended Absa pay back over R2-billion it benefited from in apartheid’s dying days. As the fallout continues, GREG NICOLSON looks at Project Spear, the documentary on allegations of apartheid grand corruption that the SABC decided never to air.

Litnet African Library | 2016

Following in the footsteps of Chinua Achebe, many African authors (like Sylvia Vollenhoven in the text profiled here) have in more recent times written texts that begin to retrieve the histories of our continent. The owners of the world’s ink-pots and the controllers of its publishing firms having previously heeded the sneering falsehoods of scholars such as the German philosopher GWF Hegel (that Africa "has no history") and those of British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper (that "African history did not exist before European explorers and colonists began to write it"), there remains a deep and rich pool of historical-cultural awareness about African ways of life, social structures, discoveries, undertakings and upheavals (difficult of access, to be sure) that authors have begun to re-imagine. In Keeper of the Kumm, Sylvia Vollenhoven (an award winning, internationally published journalist) describes how her personal, familial and cultural past began hammering at her consciousness and demanding that she do the arduous work of retrieving some of its significance.

Roby Cohen Blog | 2013

We’ve become a nation reflecting upon itself; devouring the black and white footage on television; listening to the stories behind the images. In a theatre context, performance has become increasingly a potent medium for us to reconstruct our past and put stories on stage so that they become like a conversation between the performers and audience. To wrap up the year of what one might term theatre of biography; of witnessing, Basil Appollis is paying tribute to writer Richard Rive in My Word! , on the Baxter’s Masambe Theatre. This gritty and yet very entertaining piece is directed by Sandra Temmingh and is on until December 31. It is co-written by Appollis and award winning journalist and film maker, Sylvia Vollenhoven. The pair used to be married but even after their divorce, they continue to collaborate in a work sphere.

International Center for Journalists | 2009

Knight International Journalism Fellow ... The Award recognizes media professionals who demonstrate a passionate commitment to excellent reporting that makes a difference in the lives of people around the world.

City Press | 2013

The SABC has shelved a new investigative documentary critical of the ANC government and compiled by veteran former SABC reporter Sylvia Vollenhoven, as it is deemed “too sophisticated for an SABC2 audience”.

Independent Online | 2013

Plans to screen a documentary about a corrupt apartheid deal at a fringe event during the Franschhoek Literary Festival were halted on Friday after the SABC served papers on journalist Sylvia Vollenhoven, who made the film.

Documentary Filmmakers Association | 2013

It is unusual for South African documentary filmmakers to reveal the dark underbelly of South Africa without wanting to immediately add a positive spin, too. It is as if documentary filmmakers are making films for The Department of Economic Development and Tourism and not for South Africans, who need to know the truth about their country.

A Writer's Last Word | Baxter Theatre | 1999

Co-authored a play based on the life of the renowned South African writer Richard Rive. Premiere: National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown (Main Festival). Described by one critic as "one of the most fascinating productions on the Main Festival."

Author | Ms Magazine | 1993

An in-depth feature article that explored the role ordinary and well-known women were playing in bringing about the end of apartheid.

Author | Mother Jones Magazine | 1987

A feature article that explored the nature of collaboration for apartheid's Uncle Toms.

Author | Third World Review | 1983

Wrote a definitive article for the UK based think tank, Third World Review and Quarterly, predicting the negotiated settlement that happened in South Africa a decade later.

Other Achievements

My Dear Sisters | SABC TV Documentary Film | 1995

Video postcards from ordinary South African women to the delegates who went to the 1995 UN conference in Beijing.

Steel Valley | SABC TV Documentarty | 1995

A steel plant pollutes the ground water. The story forces a major inquiry into the iron and steel corporation, Iscor.

Getting Away With Murder | SABC TV Documentary Film | 2008

A tough look at the role the apartheid media played in gross human rights abuses.



Catholic Action for Street Children

Volunteer, 2010 - present

Using Storytelling to reintegrate homeless kids

Insight Training Centre

Member, 2004 - present

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