Sarah Britten

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Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten 2012.jpg
Britten in 2012
Born Sarah Jane Britten[1][2]
(1974-08-31) 31 August 1974 (age 42)[3][4]
Johannesburg, South Africa[5]
Occupation Writer, artist,
communication strategist
Nationality South African
Alma mater Wits University
Genre Young adult fiction, non-fiction

Sarah Jane Britten (born 31 August 1974) is a South African writer, blogger, lipstick artist and communication strategist.[6]

Early life and career[edit]

Britten attended Bryanston Primary School and Redhill High School in Johannesburg and studied Drama at Wits University, where she completed a BA(Hons) in Dramatic Art in 1996, a MA in Communication Studies in 1997 and a PhD in Applied English Language Studies in 2005.[2][7][8][9] At university she explored her interests in national identity and humour with a Masters Research Report on South African humour, focussing on the Madam & Eve comic strip, and her PhD thesis One Nation, One Beer: The Mythology of the New South Africa in Advertising.[1][10][11]

She worked in journalism and advertising prior to becoming a freelance communication strategist.[3][5][8][12]


Britten has authored two youth novels and three non-fiction books on local insults.[13][14][15][16] In 2012 she wrote "... insults are also markers of collective identity. This is why I started collecting South African insults back in 2004: I wanted to understand what makes us who we are, and insults are one prism through which to view the national self ...".[17]

She regularly contributes to Thought Leader, a news and opinion website run by the Mail & Guardian newspaper.

She wrote the chapter How Not to Emigrate in Should I stay or should I go? To live in or leave South Africa, having returned to South Africa after emigrating to Australia in 2008.[18] In the editor's introduction to the book, Tim Richman writes: "Many of the contributions in this book are deeply personal; such is the nature of the topic. For Sarah Britten, there was no other way to approach her traumatic and disastrous emigration experience, one that ultimately destroyed her marriage. Or, as she suggests, perhaps it extended it beyond its sell-by date. Sarah is candid, open, honest, raw – uncomfortably at times. But hers is a necessary and hugely revealing piece, clarifying both the extent of the life-hold that emigration can exert on individuals and families, as well as the stresses it can generate."[19] At the time, she wrote about her emigration experience on her Thought Leader blog which she named Gondwanaland after the ancient southerly supercontinent that included Africa, Australia and Antarctica among other present-day landmasses.[12]

Lipstick art[edit]

Britten paints cityscapes and other subjects, namely still life, bulls and bears (stock market trend symbols), dogs, cats, horses, sharks, crocodiles, rhinos, Nguni cattle and dung beetles, with lipstick.[20][21] Her art is influenced by Zoo City, a science fiction novel by South African author Lauren Beukes. On her art website, she says: "Set in Hillbrow, the zoo city of the title, it features characters mysteriously attached to animal familiars as a form of punishment. Zoo City is riotous, chaotic and completely crazy and I loved the way it brought to life the animal energy that lurks just beneath the surface of the city. After reading the book, I started experimenting with placing animals in cityscapes, both the kind that are found in cities (dogs and cats) and those that exist in Johannesburg only as metaphors – sharks and crocodiles, for example. I’ve used a limited palette of black, grey and red to evoke the dystopian atmosphere of the city, its grey grittiness a contrast to throbbing red life. The Zoo City series led to my experiments with Ngunis, which have taken me in a more colourful direction."[22] The first public exhibition of her lipstick art, named Pulse of the City and inspired by a Land Rover marketing campaign, was held at Velo gallery café in Braamfontein in July 2012.[4]


  • 2000 Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature – Silver – The Worst Year of My Life – So Far[3]
  • 2002 Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature – Silver – Welcome to the Martin Tudhope Show![3]


  • Britten, Sarah (2000). The Worst Year of My Life – So Far (1st ed.). Cape Town: Tafelberg. ISBN 9780624039297. 
  • Britten, Sarah (2002). Welcome to the Martin Tudhope Show! (1st ed.). Cape Town: Tafelberg. ISBN 9780624036890. 
  • Britten, Sarah (2004). Ihr seid anders, wir sind besser (You are different, we are better) (in German). Translated by Stefanie Schäfer (1. Aufl., dt. Erstausg. ed.). München: Bertelsmann-Jugendbuch-Verl. ISBN 9783570302408.  German translation of The Worst Year of My Life – So Far.
  • Britten, Sarah (2006). The art of the South African insult. Johannesburg: 30° South. ISBN 9781920143053. Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  • Britten, Sarah (2007). McBride of Frankenmanto: The return of the South African insult. Johannesburg: 30° South. ISBN 9781920143183. Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  • Britten, Sarah (2009). More South African insults. Johannesburg: 30° South. ISBN 9780958489089. 
  • Britten, Sarah (2010). "How Not to Emigrate". In Richman, Tim. Should I stay or should I go? To live in or leave South Africa. Cape Town: Two Dogs. ISBN 9781920137304. 


  1. ^ a b Britten, Sarah Jane (2005). One Nation, One Beer: The Mythology of the New South Africa in Advertising (PhD). Wits University. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Britten, Sarah (19 November 2004). "What's in a name? The author as brand". LitNet. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Our Authors: Sarah Britten". NB Publishers. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Exhibition: Pulse of the City". Art or Craft. Retrieved 16 April 2013. The Pulse of the City exhibition of Johannesburg cityscapes in lipstick was inspired by my involvement with a campaign to launch the Range Rover Evoque. I had been painting with lipstick since 2002 when it started by accident. Over the years I focused on still life, and it would never have occurred to me to attempt cityscapes were it not for Land Rover. To thank Land Rover's marketing director for choosing me as a brand ambassador, I presented him with a painting of my interpretation of the campaign. That first cityscape led to others, and over time my style has evolved in several different directions. The exhibition is divided into several themes – Cityscapes, Zoo City, Ngunis and Sisyphus in Johannesburg. The Ngunis, for example, represent pop art meets 18th century English farm animal portraits meets 19th century naturalists' notebooks meets social history. Each painting features the Johannesburg skyline. 
  5. ^ a b "Who's Who SA: Sarah Britten". Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  6. ^ "Sarah Britten". Thought Leader. Retrieved 14 April 2013. During the day Sarah Britten is a communication strategist; by night she writes books and blog entries. And sometimes paints. With lipstick. It helps to have insomnia. 
  7. ^ "Sarah Britten-Steyn". LinkedIn. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Britten, Sarah (2004). Ihr seid anders, wir sind besser (in German). Translated by Stefanie Schäfer (1. Aufl., dt. Erstausg. ed.). München: Bertelsmann-Jugendbuch-Verl. ISBN 9783570302408. Sarah Britten, geboren 1974, wuchs in Sandton auf einer Vorstadt von Johannesburg, Südafrika. Nach ihrem Studium an der Universität Witwatersrand arbeitet sie derzeit als Insightmanagerin in einer Werbeagentur. 
  9. ^ "Dr Sarah Britten". Famous Faces. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  10. ^ "Sarah Britten: Gondwanaland". Archived from the original on 28 February 2009. Sarah Britten has written two books on South African insults and is working on a third. She is fascinated by nationalism and national identity; the title of her PhD thesis was One Nation, One Beer: The Mythology of the New South Africa in Advertising. She tries not to feel too guilty about the fact that she promotes the evils of consumer capitalism for a living. 
  11. ^ "About Sarah Britten". Books LIVE. Retrieved 14 April 2013. She wrote her Master's research report on South African humour (with a focus on Madam & Eve) and has a doctorate in Applied English Language Studies, the title of her thesis being 'One nation, one beer: the mythology of the new South Africa in advertising’. Her area of academic interest relates to national identity and comedy, and the concept of ‘National Intimacy’, as defined by the anthropologist Michael Herzfeld. 
  12. ^ a b Britten, Sarah (5 July 2012). "Deep Read: Gondwanaland – My trek from Sydney to Jo'burg". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 15 April 2013. I've spent most of my working life in the advertising industry 
  13. ^ "Sarah Britten: Gondwanaland". Archived from the original on 28 February 2009. Sarah Britten has written three books on South African insults. The latest has a yellow cover and would make a perfect Christmas present. And yes, Julius Malema gets a chapter to himself. 
  14. ^ Disbergen, Wilhelm (18 November 2002). "Welcome to the Martin Tudhope Show". Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  15. ^ Hugo, Gerrie (7 August 2007). "Review: The Art of the South African Insult by Sarah Britten". Blogger News Network. Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  16. ^ Hlongwane, Sipho (15 January 2010). "We're still coping". Thought Leader. Retrieved 15 April 2013.  Sipho Hlongwane Reviews More South African Insults by Sarah Britten.
  17. ^ Britten, Sarah (27 November 2012). "Jou ma se insult laws – and why insults matter". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  18. ^ "Should I Stay or Should I Go?". Two Dogs. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  19. ^ Richman, Tim (April 2010). "Should I Stay or Should I Go?". Two Dogs. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  20. ^ Haw, Penny (14 June 2012). "ART: From loopy, much lipstick art flows". Business Day. Retrieved 16 April 2013. These days, using lipstick on Triplex – the thick, shiny cardboard used by advertising agencies to mount layouts and also by architects to build models – she paints cityscapes, bulls and bears (Britten's grandfather worked in Diagonal Street), fruit, flowers and animals, including cats, horses, rhinos and Nguni cattle. 
  21. ^ Dennill, Bruce (17 July 2012). "Great Britten". The Citizen. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  22. ^ Britten, Sarah. "The Zoo City Series". Retrieved 17 April 2013. 

External links[edit]