Pippa Skotnes was born in Johannesburg and attended school at the Convent of the Holy Family. This experience provided a well-spring of ideas, some of which materialised in her continuing artwork, the Book of Iterations (2001–2014). She was educated at the University of Cape Town where she studied fine art and archaeology and where she received her MFA and DLitt degrees. After she was sued by the South African Library for a copy of her artist’s book Sound From the Thinking Strings, she became deeply interested in the nature of the book, producing several volumes inscribed on the bones of horses, an eland, a leopard and seven blue cranes. These have been widely exhibited.
She has also published a number of other books, including Claim to the Country (2007) and Unconquerable Spirit (2008); and more recently Curature: In and Out of the Archive (2014) co-edited with Carolyn Hamilton and The Courage of ||kabbo (2014) co-edited with Janette Deacon. She is currently Michaelis Professor of Fine Art and director of the Centre for Curating the Archive at the University of Cape Town. Most recently, she has returned from a sabbatical at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin where she initiated a project on the historical capture and expatriation of African animals.