The impact of racism in South Africa has been devastating and profound, and its legacy persists in various forms throughout the breadth and depth of society, not least in the visual arts. From the earliest days of settler presence in the Cape Colony art was indelibly identified with European culture and heritage. Early ‘explorer-artists’ such as Thomas Baines (1820–1875) saw themselves as part of an Empire, gathering supposedly empirical data as part of the greater Enlightenment project. Efforts to develop a uniquely ‘South African’ art gathered pace over the latter half of the 19th century,1 finding mature expression in the early 20th-century in the work of white artists who were mostly trained abroad.2 This usually meant images of the land devoid of inhabitants; and less frequently, images of the ‘natives’ in ‘traditional’ dress. In terms of the actual conventions employed by these artists, there was little apart from the subject matter to distinguish their works from their European counterparts. Under the influence of early 20th-century European art movements such as Cubism, Fauvism, Expressionism, and Surrealism, artists such as Maggie Laubser (1886– 1973), Irma Stern (1894–1966), Maurice van Essche (1906–1977), Walter Battiss (1906–1982), Alexis Preller (1911–1975), and Cecil Skotnes (b.1926) adopted a more radical means of representation, and began to envisage not only a South African, but also an African identity through their works. However the engagement of these white artists with the cultural ‘other’ was in most cases perfectly attuned to European notions of primitivism that were at the heart of Modernism. As such their work, like that of their predecessors, remained principally within the Western canon. Furthermore the assertion of a nationalistic identity through art cannot be separated from the power struggles of the time, particularly the conflicts between the British and the Boers. With the coming to power of the National Party in 1948 it should come as no surprise that books on South African art were mostly written in Afrikaans, and had no or at best little space for artists of colour.3
Consistent with imperial practice across the colonised world, indigenous artistic production was relegated by the gatekeepers of (western) civilisation to the inferior status of craft. It was in the 1920s and 1930s that the earliest black South African artists4 i.e. those who adopted or adapted western conventions of making art, particularly drawing, painting and sculpture, began to emerge. These ‘pioneers’ were predominantly mission-educated, self-taught artists who were mostly mentored by white patrons and artists.5 Later, under apartheid, education was used deliberately as a tool for domination, and the majority of school- educated black South Africans found handicrafts to be a part of the (official) curriculum, whereas most whites had access to art education through schools and universities.6 These early manifestations of the divide between black and white established a pattern of unequal power relationships that still resonates today. It also created the framework for rose-tinted distortions of the black experience, most typically expressed through picturesque images of native life in both (‘traditional’) rural and (‘modern’) urban settings. These trends would be commonly referred to as ‘ethnographic’ and ‘township’ art. The work of black South African artists, with few exceptions, was mostly consigned to exhibitions that were essentially racially based,7 or as in supposedly ‘inclusive’ studies by Esmé Berman (1971, 1983, 1993) they were consigned to their own (sub)sections, not unlike the apartheid policy of separate development.8 Successive generations of (black) artists attempted to resist their marginalisation, some through exile or studying abroad (ironically mostly in Europe), others by developing alternatives to stereotypical pictorial conventions, and still others by establishing a counter-discourse and practice. However it was perhaps inevitable that even acts of resistance would become neutralised as commodities in a white-dominated art market, or written out of history.
This reductive and inadequate account is simply meant to highlight the fact that although the historical trajectories of black and white South African artists overlap they have long been subjected to efforts to keep them apart. Consequently South African art has deep fault- lines, primarily based on race, but also on ethnicity, class and gender. Fortunately, South African history reveals a counter-hegemonic discourse to racism and apartheid. The liberation struggle and in particular the non-racialism of the African National Congress played a critical part in unifying artists across colour and ethnicity. According to Omar Badsha (personal communication, August 2005) it was in the aftermath of the Sharpeville Massacre (1960) that some black artists, including Dumile and himself, began to wrestle with the role of art in society. According to Sue Williamson (1989:8) it was the 1976 Soweto Uprisings that “jolted [a generation of artists] out of lethargy”. However it was the Culture and Resistance symposium in Gaborone 1982, organised by the ANC, that perhaps did the most to provide a radical framework for non-racial solidarity amongst South African artists. The recognition that artists could play a meaningful role in social change saw politicised artists transformed into ‘cultural workers’. The focal point for ‘culture as a weapon of the struggle’ was the international cultural boycott, imposed by the United Nations in 1980. The vehicle for participation and solidarity was through non-racial artists’ organisations.9 Just as the boycott provided a focal point for anti-apartheid solidarity, it also divided artists, white and black. Many white artists were resentful of what they perceived to be undue political interference in a supposedly autonomous practice. Black artists also got caught up in the apartheid government’s manipulative efforts to project an image of amicable racial co-existence through exhibitions.10 The critical point here is that the 1980s provide one historical example of how cultural politics could supersede race and ethnicity as the distinguishing element in a divided society, although it would be naïve to assume that it did away with them.11
A bird’s eye view of the South African art world today (post-apartheid, post-colonial, postmodern …) would see some signs or patterns of change in the dominant historical patterns of exclusivity and inclusivity. Most noticeably, there has been a significant increase in the visibility of black artists at both the national and the international level. This visibility has been aided in part by the requirements of the new post- apartheid political dispensation. New policies on cultural tourism have also helped develop and (at least temporarily) sustain an economic base for an increase in the number of private galleries, and hence opportunities to exhibit. Internationally (read: in the dominant art capitals of the West) there appears to be an ever-pumping stream of ‘rainbow’ exhibitions that communicate the image of an inclusive post-apartheid democratic order.12 There has also been a major increase in the number of publications on South African art, particularly catalogues and monographs, most of which feature black artists.
The discrepancy between black visibility as artists, and visibility in other spheres of related activities is a critical distinction that needs to be addressed. According to Goniwe (2003:38) ‘Black artists engage with white practitioners only as image-makers, while the latter have multiple occupations that include teaching, researching, writing, curating, marketing, collecting, and so forth’. A closer look in 2005 reveals some movement, although critics are likely to dismiss this as “too little, too late”. There is, for instance, an emerging generation of black curators.13 Recent times have also heralded the arrival of Gallery Momo, a black- owned gallery in a historically white area in Johannesburg. The market is also changing: there has been a noticeable increase in black buyers, who are primarily interested in art by black artists (Madi Phala, artist, personal communication, June 2005).
Although their numbers are low, there are also ‘new’ black writers trained in the visual arts. Among this emerging generation of art historians and critics Thembinkosi Goniwe and Mgcineni ‘Pro’ Sobopha have demonstrated their intent to critically engage with issues of power framing and underpinning the production and reception of art. Several curators also write on art, notably Sipho Mdanda, as do black writers from other disciplines.14 It is worth noting that only two black South Africans have written books on South African art, and that none of these writers were trained as art historians (Manaka 1987, Manganyi 1996, 2004).15 Overall the number of black writers, including veterans such as David Koloane, is insufficient to alter the perception that whites dominate published discourse. Certainly the chronic under-representation of black students, and particularly staff, in most higher learning institutions for the visual arts acts as a constant reminder of the shaky foundations underpinning the South African art world.
A critical point about the increased visibility of black artists is that most of them received training from so-called ‘community arts centres’.16 These centres include a diverse range of art education projects, mostly run in the past by non-governmental organisations and funded largely by international donors.17 With political changes in the 1990s most donors withdrew or redirected their financial support to government departments. Not surprisingly most of the centres and art organisations that were around in the early 1990s have either collapsed or perform, at best, with modest capacity. Ironically, community arts centres have been a consistent feature in ANC policy documents, as an essential part of the present government’s strategy to increase access to the arts.
With South Africa’s transition to democracy new arts and culture policies were developed, including the designation of “arts and culture” as an official learning area in schools. However inadequate provision for teacher training has inadvertently ensured that the visual arts remain a privilege for a minority, sited mostly at historically resourced schools (Gill Cowan, personal communication, August 2005). More than three decades after John Muafangejo’s graphic account of his unsuccessful application to study at the University of Cape Town (1971) (plate 188) his image retains its potency and resonance as an emblem of systemic exclusion, although it is increasingly class, and not simply race that is now determining access. With the stepping stones provided in the past by community arts centres now mostly washed away, where will the next generation of black South African artists come from? Or is it enough that some of yesterday’s excluded artists have finally secured membership (if not necessarily leadership) of an elite club?
The recent proliferation of events, mostly exhibitions, celebrating ten years of democracy, without a single institution facilitating a public evaluation of progress or conducting a public audit of transformation, is a sad indictment of the extent of self-reflexivity and accountability in the visual arts. Perhaps due to South Africa’s unique negotiated settlement and a subsequent emphasis on reconciliation, as well as the low priority of the visual arts, their transformation is not usually linked in public discourse to decolonisation,18 but rather to demographic inclusivity. With decolonisation omitted from the discourse on transformation, a cynic could be forgiven for inferring that for the elite members of the visual arts community, liberation from oppression has simply meant freedom from the cultural boycott and a ticket to Venice.19 Post 1990, the de-facto ‘foreign policy’ of the South African art world has been an uncritical, opportunistic re-entry into the so-called international art community. This has been at the expense of developing alternatives to imposed and entrenched neo-colonial networks. For example there has been no priority given to engagement with African countries, as well as other parts of the so-called developing world. Where such contacts exist they tend to be neo-colonial conduits to the West.20
With the South African art world focused on Venice it can also be observed that the historical divide between art and craft in the local context, actively challenged in the early 1990s by exhibitions such as Art from South Africa21 has been inadvertently reinstated by an official government emphasis on promoting crafts22 whilst neglecting to engage with the issue of the fundamental transformation of the visual arts.
Given what can only be described as a vacuum in intellectual leadership within the visual arts, it seems temperate to declare that art in South Africa is in a crisis. ‘Rainbow’ exhibitions, as indicators of the state of things, are at best a glorious vision of tomorrow, at worst a lie.
Van Robbroeck (unpublished: 141) argues that “the practice of galleries to organize group exhibitions of black artists’ work, contributed towards the discursive tendency to regard it as a collective phenomenon”. She situates this tendency within the conceptual framework of apartheid ideology, where supposedly lacking in individual identity, black Africans were characterised by their cohesiveness as a social group. Van Robbroeck also distinguishes between apartheid-friendly writing, exemplified by E.J. de Jager (1973, 1992) and Berman (1971, 1983, 1993); and later revisionist or corrective efforts, such as by Sack (1988) and Miles (1997, 2004) that aimed to write the excluded black presence back into the history of South African art.
Almost two decades since The Neglected Tradition do exhibitions of (exclusively or predominantly) art by black artists still represent a necessary step in leveling the playing field, or do they inadvertently serve to perpetuate the historical marginalisation of black artists?23 What does one make of the fact that, with few exceptions,24 the works of many black artists continue to feature almost exclusively in what could be reductively referred to as race-based studies?25 If there is no longer a case for race-based exhibitions and projects, what should be made of post-apartheid essays whose titles purport to address contemporary South African art but which focus exclusively on the work of white artists, or exclusively on the work of black artists?26 Is there a simple answer to these questions, or does each case have to be treated on its own merits? Clearly we have and have not come a long way.
Of the race-based surveys it was Steven Sack’s The Neglected Tradition (1988) that served as a major catalyst for Bruce Campbell Smith to begin collecting South African art in earnest. Campbell Smith was inspired by the notion of ‘neglect’ and set out to collect works that would fill in gaps within South Africa’s art history. While The Neglected Tradition was concerned with the historical marginalisation of black artists, Sack included a few white artists who had impacted on the work of black artists.27 The inclusion of a select number of white artists in Campbell Smith’s collection serves not only to make points about the development of black art but also to introduce consideration of the relationship between works by black and white artists. Sometimes differences are not discernible on the surface: as paintings there is little to separate Gregoire Boonzaier’s Bo-Kaap (1944) (plate 78) from George Milwa Pemba’s New Brighton (1960) (plate 48), although their experiences as artists and as South Africans were worlds apart.
Sometimes difference is more visibly marked. The prevalence of smiling faces in the portraits of Simoni Mnguni (1885–1956) (plate 3 and 8) and Gerard Bhengu (1910–1990) (plate 16-25) contrasted with more supposedly objective expressions on the faces of black, ‘tribal’ subjects by contemporary white artists such as Neville Lewis (1895– 1972) (plates 53&54), or the more stylised representations by Irma Stern (plate 13), Maurice van Essche (1906–1977) (plate 30) and Alexis Preller (plate 37) is one visible indicator that different considerations applied to black and white artists. White portraits of black subjects conform to the dominant format of painting in the western tradition; their compositions tend to be emphatically rectangular, whereas several of the black artists, particularly Mnguni and Bhengu, adopt a compositional structure that appears to be influenced by the possibility of being placed within an oval frame, a convention that is common with photographic portraits (plates 6 and 7).
ReVisions makes visible a host of marginalised and under-represented artists. It may come as a surprise to many that most of the artists featured are excluded from two of the best-known books on South African art, namely Gavin Younge’s Art of the South African Townships (1988) and Sue Williamson’s Resistance Art in South Africa (1989).28 Particularly glaring absences from these texts are the numerous seminal artists associated with Polly Street29 as well as with Black Consciousness.30 Since both Younge and Williamson focused on contemporary production, it may seem unfair to fault them on their lack of art historical perspective.31 However, if one takes into account that Art of the South African Townships and Resistance Art in South Africa have been widely consulted, and that their titles purportedly address two of the most significant discourses in South African art32 these texts, authors intentions aside, are inadvertently taken by the wider public as being representative of these ‘movements’ as a whole. Williamson’s book, in particular, is frequently referred to in authoritative terms.33
Not since The Neglected Tradition in 1988 has there been such a broad representation of historically significant black artists. Indeed in some respects ReVisions could be considered a sequel to that seminal exhibition: it continues the theme of historically marginalised (black) artists and updates it with selective inclusions into more recent art and artists. It also expands the narrative by featuring artists represented in both pre and post Neglected Tradition texts particularly those by De Jager (1972, 1978, 1993) , Manaka (1987), Miles (1997, 2004), as well as Hobbs and Rankin (2003).
The strengths of the Campbell Smith Collection include a fairly comprehensive account of the early trend by South African artists to represent ‘ethnographic’ subjects that made its debut in the meeting of the colonial self and the colonised other. The Collection is also particularly strong on black art in the 1960s. Dumile Feni (1939–1991) is the pivotal figure in this narrative, signaling the shift from the picturesque to one of more intense engagement with the political climate of the time. Campbell Smith notes the emergence of the clenched fist in a small biro drawing by Dumile (see frontispiece and plate 143) from the mid-1960s, possibly the earliest visual expression of what would become a symbol of resistance in South African art (personal communication, August 2005). However while Dumile was one of the first artists to articulate resistance to oppression he, together with other artists of his generation also sought liberation through their art by, for example, consciously turning away from Western sources and looking to each other, as well as to African and Eastern sources for inspiration and strength (Omar Badsha, personal communication, August 2005). By doing this, these artists gave early expression to an emerging black consciousness, that would soon be crisply articulated by Steve Biko and the South African Students Organisation (SASO).
Among more recent artists the Collection has a special place for Trevor Makhoba (1956-2003) (plates 292–307), the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year award winner in 1996 who subsequently publicly clashed with the organisers of the award. Makhoba also failed to get an entry in 10 Years 100 Artists (Perryer 2004), a lavish survey of post-apartheid art despite the fact that he was one of the most original and powerful artists to have emerged in the new dispensation. Indeed, Makhoba remains one of the few artists who not only tackled uncomfortable themes such as domestic abuse, sexual violence, HIV/ Aids, the illicit trade in body parts for medicinal and ritual purposes and other taboo subjects; themes which for the most part only began to enter the national discourse in the 1990s, but frequently managed to do so in a way that engages and challenges viewers (Pissarra 2003).
Fig. 2 Dumile Feni
Man in Chains
Black and red ink on paper, 45 x 35.5cm
Of course not all artists in the Campbell Smith Collection lack recognition or have been forgotten. The Collection features several artists, mostly ‘pioneers’ whose achievements have been recognised through retrospective exhibitions and/or publications (monographs or catalogues): Gerard Bhengu (1910–1990), George Milwa Pemba (1912–2001), Gerard Sekoto (1913–1993), Gladys Mgudlandlu (1917– 1979), Peter Clarke (b.1929), Selby Mvusi (1929–1967), Lucas Sithole (1931–1994), Dan Rakgoathe (1937–2004), Noria Mabasa (b.1938), Dumile, Azaria Mbatha (b.1941), John Muafangejo (1943–1987) and Cyprian Shilakoe (1946–1972).
The Collection also has the potential to initiate dialogue with contemporary artists who are not featured. For example it excludes William Kentridge (b.1955), but has reams of formidable Dumile (fig 1, above, fig 2 and plates 136–151), who inspired a teenage Kentridge. There are also no works by David Koloane (b.1938), but gems from Maqhubela (b.1939), an early black South African abstractionist (plates 134 and 135). There is no Helen Sebidi (b.1943), but the most generous sampling of paintings (plates 68–73) from John Koenakeefe Mohl (1903–1985), her teacher, since The Neglected Tradition. A vivid and unflinching portrait in oils from 1974 of an unknown herder (plate 221) by the little-known Enos Makhubhedu (b.1938) invites comparison with recent photographs of unnamed cane cutters by Zwelethu Mthethwa (b.1960).
The Campbell Smith Collection does not concern itself with recent conceptual art, but it does create a platform for existential and contemplative works, particularly from the 1960s and 1970s. The fact that many of these are drawings is in itself significant, as it partially reflects basic issues such as access to resources. Not only were most art materials out of reach for many black artists, they were even rejected as elitist by some.36 Another link that can be drawn between recent conceptualism and the drawings of Sydney Kumalo (1935– 1988), Ezrom Legae (1937–1999), Dumile, Omar Badsha (b.1945), Julian Motau (1948–1968), Leonard Matsoso (b.1949), and Harry Moyaga (b.1954) is the emphasis on the human body. Certainly the figurative drawings of these artists go way beyond any western notions of ‘sketch’ or ‘life’ or ‘figure’ drawing: the body is a central stage for the articulation and expression of existential concerns, a site of struggle that is both intensely personal and political.
Van Robbroeck (2003:179) identifies a tendency on the part of white art historians to ignore the links between black art and the “effects of the programmatic brutalities of the apartheid system”. She notes that writers such as De Jager explain the alienation that can be detected in much so-called township art of the 1960s and 1970s in quasi-Darwinist evolutionary terms, as a consequence of the shift from (undeveloped, ‘traditional’) rural to (civilised, ‘western’) urban environment. Indeed it could be argued that the depoliticisation of context allows writers such as De Jager to employ a term such as “African figurative expressionism” which has influenced subsequent writing on black South African art.38 While there can be little argument concerning the subjective nature of drawings such as those by Dumile et al, black South African artists of the 1960s and 1970s had little or no interest in articulating a romantic, pre-industrial (“primitive”) state of being and there is little to achieve from a linking of their works to European Expressionism other than effectively shifting the emphasis from a consideration of the specificities of their art and context towards the supposedly neutral, universal (western) canon.
There is no doubt that the Campbell Smith Collection is driven by the collector’s own interests, informed by his own experiences and tastes, and not least his financial means. Personally I find it to be a welcome antidote to the dominant narratives. In many ways it provides an historical context for some of today’s most visible artists. The Collection presents an opportunity to engage with the works of a host of historically-neglected artists, and in so doing to widen our collective knowledge about South African art. It highlights how very rich South Africa is when it comes to artists of quality, and that any narrative that purports to tell the whole story will inevitably fail to cover a number ofsignificant artists, events and discourses which, in another narrative, may well take centre stage. Certainly much has happened since a then exclusively white South African Association of Art Historians challenged themselves to ‘rewrite South African art history’ in 1987, although much remains unwritten and there are still critical sectors within the visual arts where there is inadequate evidence of change. Opinions will no doubt differ as to whether pre or post ReVisions knowledge of neglected, mostly black artists has been sufficiently retrieved through a series of revisionist projects; whether transformation is on track; and whether inclusive exhibitions and publications of South African art can now be free of the spectres of racism and apartheid.
Perhaps the biggest challenges lie beyond revisionist art history; beyond inscribing the marginalised black presence into South African art, and beyond achieving demographic equity in the art world. Arguably they lie in developing a bold and comprehensive view of transformation that addresses the historical legacies of colonialism and apartheid, but is not framed by their way of thinking, seeing and doing.39 Unless we rise to this challenge colonialism and apartheid may well have won. Greater self-reflexivity, fundamental paradigm shifts, creative interventions, multi-pronged strategies; all these and more are urgently required to liberate art from the burden of our racist history, failing which South African art may be cast in colour for some time still.
I am grateful to Lize van Robbroeck, Bruce Campbell Smith, Omar Badsha and Hayden Proud for their comments on previous drafts. All errors, undue biases and misrepresentations are entirely my own. A slightly expanded version of this essay, including more footnotes and references, can be found on the SAHO website (www.sahistory.org.za)
- The South African Fine Arts Association was formed in 1850 (Alexander and Cohen 1990:14).
- I refer here to both artists born in South Africa e.g. J.E.A. Volschenk (1853–1936), Hugo Naudé (1869–1941) and J.H. Pierneef (1886–1957); and those born abroad e.g. Frans Oerder (1867–1944) and Gwelo Goodman (1871–1939).
- For example Bouman (1938) and Alexander (1962).
- The term ‘black’ is used throughout this paper in the inclusive, black consciousness sense i.e. as applying to all those categorised as ‘non-white’ under apartheid rule.
- Note that Pemba (Miles 1997:68) and Bhengu (Bell & Clark 1995: 10, 20-21, 34) also had black patrons.
- Significantly the first opportunity for the black majority, particularly those categorized as Africans, to study art at tertiary level was the establishment in 1971 of a Fine Arts Department at the University of Fort Hare, situated at the time in one of the supposedly independent ‘Bantu homelands’.
- For example, during the 1930s and 1940s The South African Academy (1920–c.1950) included the work of black artists, usually as “native exhibits”. See Miles (1997:55). In the 1960s and 1970s Artists of Fame exhibitions had a separate category for “non- white artists” (Van Robbroeck unpublished: 143). More insidious means, such as the maintenance of “standards” based entirely on Eurocentric criteria, have also been used for exclusionary purposes.
- Sporadically alternatives to the hegemonic trends emerged. Tributaries (1985) provides a well known example of art exhibitions that transgressed race in the apartheid era, but it was by no means the first. Art South Africa Today (annual exhibitions initiated by the South African Institute of Race Relations in 1963) were described by Jo Thorpe in 1988 as “non- racial” (Quoted in van Robbroeck, unpublished:143).
- The boycott was administered within the country by the Cultural Desk of the United Democratic Front. Arts organizations that emerged in the latter half of the 1980s and which were ideologically part of the broad resistance movement include the Visual Arts Group/ Cultural Workers Congress (Western Cape), Artists Alliance (Johannesburg), Natal Visual Arts Organisation; the Imvaba Visual arts Component (Eastern Cape); and the Thupelo Workshop, the only survivor from this era.
- While black artists were particularly visible in international Exhibitions in the 1960s and 1970s, this was less evident in the 1980s. However, the internal cultural boycott was a more messy affair, with a number of black artists participating in state and parastatal initiatives.
- David Koloane’s harsh assessment of the contribution of white artists to the democratic struggle was that “there was minimal, if any, dissent from artists who benefited from apartheid.” (1997:33).
- See, for example, Liberated Voices: Contemporary Art from South Africa at the Museum for African Art, New York. For the catalogue see Herreman (1999).
- Including Pitso Chinzima, Prince Dube, Khwezi Gule, Thembinkosi Goniwe, Sharlene Khan, Moleleki Frank Ledimo, Sipho Mdanda, Zayd Minty, Tumelo Mosaka, Sipho Ndabambi, Gabi Ngcobo, Vuyile Voyiya, Ernestine White, and Mduduzi Xakaza.
- See for example Bedford (2004) where four out of eleven writers are black, but only one of these works full time in the visual arts (Frank Ledimo). In contrast all seven white writers are visual arts professionals (curators and academics).
- Ashraf Jamal, who co-wrote with Williamson (1997) also conforms to this trend.
- For example this applies to all the black artists in Herreman (1999).
- A few centres, such as the legendary Polly Street ‘School’ and the post 1976 Kathlehong Art Centre were an exception to the rule, being funded by (apartheid) government departments.
- ‘Decolonization’ is used here in the radical, Ngugi-esque sense to denote resistance to neo-colonialism and cultural imperialism, rather than in the conservative interpretation as the end of colonial government. Ngugi wa’Thiongo (1993) argues for a ‘plurality of centres’, a proposition that would enable a true internationalism to develop. It should be noted that calling for a post-colonial discourse on decolonization does not imply a return to a supposedly pure or authentic ‘Africa’, as correctly criticized by Kellner (1997).
- While I obviously refer here to the Venice Biennale, the ancestor and/or prototype of Biennales everywhere, I also use Venice as a symbol for the network of first world art capitals. See Martin (2003 and 2003b) for the importance of the Venice Biennale for South African (and African) art.
- I attempt to highlight some of the contradictions arising from the lifting of the cultural boycott in a recent article. See Pissarra (2005). For criticisms of Dak’Art ( the most prominent African Biennale) see Araeen (2003) and Oguibe (2004).
- See Elliott (1990).
- As one of the designated ‘cultural industries’. See www.dac.gov.za
- A related debate occurs internationally. For example Eddie Chambers (2005), an advocate of ‘black art’ in the 1980s, has questioned the rationale for the Africa05 festival in the United Kingdom.
- Such as those contemporary artists who have been absorbed into international Exhibitions in recent years.
- This rubric encompasses a diversity of interests and agendas as diverse as De Jager (1973, 1978 & 1992), Manaka (1987), Younge (1988), Sack (1988), Nettleton and Hammond- Tooke (1989), and Miles (1997). Case studies of training centres that serviced black communities also fit under this broad rubric, e.g. Hobbs and Rankin (2003) and Miles (2005).
- See Sue Williamson ‘Looking Back, Looking Forward: an Overview of South Africanart’, and David Koloane ‘Post-apartheid Expression and a New Voice’. (Koloane does refer to the late Bill Ainslie, but he is presumably not an example of a post-apartheid white artist.) Ironically both these examples of post-apartheid separatism feature in Herreman (1999), cited earlier as an example of a ‘rainbow’ exhibition.
- Bill Ainslie (1939–1984), Eduardo Villa, Cecil Skotnes (b.1926) and Douglas Portway (b.1922).
- These are among the few books on South African art that have been published both at home and abroad. Resistance Art has recently been reprinted, a rare honour for a South African art book (Esmé Berman revised and enlarged her 1971 book in 1983). Artists in Campbell Smith’s collection that predate publication by Younge and Williamson but feature in neither include, in order of year of birth: Mnguni, Mohl, Bhengu, Pemba, Ntuli, Sekoto, Mgudlandlu, Butelezi, Mizream Maseko, Mvusi, Lekgetho, Langdown, Sithole, Mogano, Sihlali, Ndebele, Legae, Rakgoathe, Ngatane, Makhubedu, Dumile, Maqhubela, Jo Maseko, Arnold, Tshabalala, Shilakoe, Badsha, Jantjes, Motau, Zulu, Eric Mbatha, Matsoso, Saoli, Mahlangu, and Moyaga.
- Including many of the earliest artists to make work that was labeled ‘township art’, and therefore surely a relevant consideration for Younge.
- A consideration of the impact of Black Consciousness, in both nascent and developed forms, are surely key elements in any comprehensive examination of the notion of ‘resistance’ art. Note that for purposes of this paper I use Black Consciousness in a broad sense, inclusive of more restrictive notions of Africanism.
- Interestingly, neither of these books contains a bibliography.
- I say this mindful that both terms are problematic. For the dismissal of the ‘[white] racist arrogance’ of ‘township art’ see Manaka (1987:15). Younge (1988:8) tried to distinguish between ‘township art’ and ‘art of the townships’. Discredited by intellectuals, ‘township art/ist’ is still widely used as a synonym for ‘black art/ist’. The notion of “resistance art”, particularly in so far as it applied to the visual arts, gained currency after Williamson’s publication, and continues to be widely used in referring to art in ‘the struggle’.
- Janet Stanley, a key person in promoting academic interest in modern African art in the USA is quoted endorsing the new edition ( ‘… a milestone, an excellent visual survey of the subject [resistance art]’). On the same cover the publishers refer to Williamson’s ‘classic account of the visual art of the culture of resistance’ seemingly oblivious of any criticism of her book, not least a devastating critique by Du Plessis (1991).
- Van Robbroeck (2003) argues that De Jager has been the most influential writer on black South African art.
- Listed in order of initial publication: For Bhengu see Savory (1965) and Bell & Clark (1995); Muafangejo see Arnott (1977) and Levinson (1988, 1992, 1993; Sithole see Haenggi (1979); Mbatha see Eichel (1986), Addleson (1998); Sekoto see Lindop (1988, 1995), Spiro (1989) and Manganyi (1996, 2004); Shilakoe see Nel (1990); Clarke see Hardy (1992) and Willemse (2000); Pemba see Hudleston (1996), Proud and Feinberg (1996); Rakgoathe see Langhan (2000); Mvusi and Mgudlandlu see Miles (1996, 2003); Mabasa see Press (2003); Dumile see Smith (2005). The first monograph on a black South African artist was written by Damant (1951) on Samuel Makoanyane (c.1909–1944). Mbatha (2005) wrote the first autobiography of a black South African artist.
- This provides another point of comparison with much recent conceptual art, which ostensibly bridges the gap between art and life but in practice often relies on expensive technology and professional collaboration for the ‘idea’ to materialise. In contrast consider what Peter Clarke achieves with a mere koki pen in Before the Storm (1961).
- Elsewhere van Robbroeck (unpublished: 133) notes that it is ‘unlikely to be coincidence that the “pioneer” modern black artists started their careers in the 1920s and 1930s, when crippling taxes, economic depression and a devastating drought forced increasingly more black South Africans into urban wage labour’.
- This concept runs throughout de Jager’s writings. Mdanda (2004:193) refers to ‘African expressionism’.
- I have elsewhere argued that we need to shift the debate from black and white which is easily co-opted by essentialist thinking; towards a critical engagement with the notion of Africa/n in the post-colonial environment, as this provides both a framework for addressing racism and enabling personal agency (Pissarra, 2004).
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- Haenggi, F. F. 1979. Lucas Sithole: 1958–1979. Gallery 21 & The Haenggi Foundation Museum, Johannesburg.
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10 years, 100 artists: art in a democratic South Africa / edited by Sophie Perryer. Cape Town: Bell-Roberts Publications in association with Struik Publishers, 2004. 447pp. illus. (some color). N7392.2.A14 2004 AFA. OCLC 56956827.
Ten years after the transition to democracy in South Africa, 10 years, 100 artists appeared. This art publishing project was a collaborative and sometimes contentious process: how to choose 100 South African artists. Fifteen writers, curators, and art activists each selected ten artists, and then the back-and-forth negotiations began. The result is not a “top 100 artists,” but an almagamation of fifteen peoples’ opinions about which South African artists should be included. Among the final 100 are the well-known as well as emerging artists, black and white artists, expected names and surprises. Each artist is presented with commentary by one of the writers and reproductions of several works of art.
The 100 are: Alan Alborough, Jane Alexander, Siemon Allen, Bridget Baker, Bongi Bengu, Kim Berman, Willie Bester, Willem Boshoff, Conrad Botes, Andries Botha, Wim Botha, Kevin Brand, Candice Breitz, Lisa Brice, Jean Brundrit, Pitso Chinzima, Peter Clarke, Steven Cohen, Marlene Dumas, Zamaxolo Dunywa, Paul Edmunds, Garth Erasmus, Ângela Ferreira, Rookeya Gardee, Kendell Geers, David Goldblatt, Thembinkosi Goniwe, Frances Goodman, Kay Hassan, Matthew Hindley, Sipho Hlati, Nicholas Hlobo, Stephen Hobbs, Robert Hodgins, Fanie Jason, Sfiso Ka Mkame, Alison Kearney, William Kentridge, Sharlene Khan, Nkosinathi Khanyile, David Koloane, Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, Terry Kurgan, Moshekwa Langa, Brenton Maart, Noria Mabasa, Churchill Madikida, Langa Magwa, Zamani Makhanya, Mustafa Maluka, Thando Mama, Senzeni Marasela, Zen Marie, Colbert Mashile, Kagiso Pat Mautloa, Samson Mnisi, Santu Mofokeng, Samson Mudzunga, Thomas Mulcaire, Brett Murray, Christian Nerf, Gabisile Ngcobo, Sam Nhlengethwa, Gabisile Nkosi, Vuyisa Nyamende, Sophie Peters, Johannes Phokela, Thabiso Phokompe, Cameron Platter, Thembeka Qangule, Jo Ractliffe, Robin Rhode, Colin Richards, Tracey Rose, Roderick Sauls, Claudette Schreuders, Peter Schütz, Berni Searle, Usha Seejarim, Durant Sihlali, Penny Siopis, Dinkies Sithole, Kathryn Smith, Mgcineni Sobopha, Doreen Southwood, Greg Streak, Guy Tillim, The Trinity Session, Andrew Tshabangu, Clive van den Berg, Hentie van der Merwe, Minnette Vári, Nontiskelelo Veleko, Diane Victor, Jeremy Wafer, Ernestine White, Sue Williamson, Nhlanhla Xaba, Ed Young, and Sandile Zulu.
Reviewed by Kim Gurney in Art South Africa (Cape Town) 3 (2) summer 2004, pages 11-13; by Melanie Hillebrand in De arte (Pretoria) 71, April 2005, pages 76-79; by Roger Kershaw in African book publishing record (Oxford) 32 (4) 2006, page 318
Alexander, Lucy and Evelyn Cohen. 150 South African paintings: past and present. Cape Town: Struikhof, 1990. 180pp. illus. (color), bibliog. glossary. ND1092.A376 1990 AFA. OCLC 22721516.
"What is a South African artist?" is the opening question posed by the authors. This is neither the first nor the last time that that question arises in South Africa, but Alexander and Cohen offer their own definition. Elements of European painting traditions, such as the sublime or the picturesque, are found in early South African painting. The uniquely South African landscape -- Table Mountain, the Karoo, the highveld -- features prominently. The quest to portray black people in traditional clothing and settings is another recurring theme defining South African painting. The nationalistic art movement in the interwar years was replaced by self-conscious moves away from what came to be seen as provincialism. For many white artists, European art training and travels shaped their interpretation of the South African experience. In recent times, the painters' quest for a South African identity has intensified. And indeed the nature of South African painting has shifted and broadened, as more and more black artists entered the arena.
Opening this panorama of painting with a tribute to the original South African painters, the San rock artists, the viewer is quickly brought forward several millenia to Francois Le Vaillant in the eighteenth century. The selection of 150 paintings by Alexander and Cohen, though inevitably subjective, does try to present a healthy cross section of South African canvasses right up to the present. For each color plate, they give some background on the artist and some commentary on the work itself. Most of the paintings illustrated are from public South African collections. Glossary.
Reviewed by Amanda Jephson, "Paint and popular texture: making South African art accessible," ADA: art, design, architecture (Cape Town) no. 9: 58, 1990/1991.
Ampersand: a dialogue of contemporary art from South Africa & the Daimler Art Collection, June 11-October 10, 2010 / texte, Renate Wiehager, Christian Ganzenberg. München: Hirmer Verlag GmbH, 2010. 127 pp. illus. (chiefly color) Text in English and German. N7393.A564 2010 AFA. OCLC 648719624.
Ampersand is the catalog of an exhibition held at the Daimler Contemporary, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, June11-October 10, 2010. Works by fourteen international artists from the Daimler Art Collection (including one South African artist) are shown in a dialogue with sixteen South African artists. Includes site-specific installations and video art as well as paintings, drawings and photography.
Artists from the Daimler Art Collection: Robert Filliou; Jan Henderikse; Alicja Kwade; Jim Lee; Marcellvs L.; Patrick Fabian Panetta; Robin Rhode; Jérôme Saint-Loubert Bié; Pietro Sanguineti;Lasse Schmidt Hansen;Monika Sosnowska;Natalia Stachon;Luca Trevisani; Simone Westerwinter -- Artists from South Africa: Zander Blom; Dineo Bopape; Willem Boshoff; Kay Hassan; Nicholas Hlobo; Abrie Fourie; Lawrence Lemaoana; Michael MacGarry; Nandipha Mntambo; Athi-Patra Ruga; Lerato Shadie; Rowan Smith; Nontsikelelo Veleko; Mikhael Subotzky; Sue Williamson; James Webb.
Ardmore: an African discovery / by Gillian Scott; photographs by Anthony Bannister and Kathleen Comfort. Vlaeberg, South Africa: Fernwood Press, 1998. 79pp. Illus. (color). NK4210.A684S38 1998X AFA. OCLC 41618272.
Ardmore Ceramic Art Studio in rural KwaZulu-Natal was established by ceramicist Fée Halsted-Berning in 1985. Her studio assistant Bonnie Ntshalintshali, born in 1967, soon became her artistic partner, and in 1990 the two shared the Standard Bank Young Artist Award. Ntshalintshali became the star of Ardmore with her fanciful, colorful glazed ceramic sculptures, which are showcased in this book. In 1993, she exhibited work in the Venice Biennale. Success led to the expansion of Ardmore, which now engages several dozen ceramicists both men and women, who make highly decorated functional ceramic ware as well as sculptures. The history and growth of Ardmore are documented in this well-illustrated book. Ntshalintshali died of AIDS in 1999 after this book was published.
Arnold, Marion I. Women and art in South Africa. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996; Cape Town: David Philip, 1996. x, 186pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. (pp. 178183). N7392.A77 1996X AFA. OCLC 35318603.
Feminist perspectives are long overdue in South African art history. The histories of women artists need to be retrieved, and the meanings behind images of women need to be revealed. In a series of essays, Arnold tackles these gender-based topics, first examining pre-twentieth century women artists and the depictions of women in South Africa by artists of both genders. Landscape painting and botanical art, areas that attracted women artists, are discussed in separate essays. "Portrait of servitude" examines depictions of women as servants. The painter Irma Stern (1894-1966) is the focus of another esay, and women's self-portraits, yet another -- with reference to Maggie Laubser (1884-1973), Maud Sumner (1902-1985), and Dorothy Kay (1886-1964).
Moving to the more recent period, Arnold critiques the work of sculptors and their depictions of the body, with particular reference to Wilma Cruise (1945- ) and Jane Alexander (1959- ). Feminist perspectives overflow in a final essay on modern women artists active in South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s: Penny Siopis (1953- ), Pippa Skotnes (1957- ), Sue Williamson (1941- ), Reshada Crouse (1953- ), Sandra Kriel (1952- ), Helen Sebidi (1943- ), Allina Ndebele (1939- ), Noria Mabasa (1938- ), Margaret Vorster (1953- ), and Philippa Hobbs (1955- ).
Art and justice: the art of the Constitutional Court of South Africa / photography by Ben Law-Viljoen. Parkwood, South Africa: David Krut, 2008. 203pp. illus. (pt. color). N8846.S6A77 2008 AFA. OCLC 297162559.
The art collection of the Constitutional Court of South Africa reflects how artistic vision, human rights and the workings of justice can come together aesthetically, architecturally in the spirit of reconciliation and unity. The art is integrated fully into the concept and architectural design of this most uncourt-like building, housed on the ground of South Africa’s notorious Old Fort Prison in Johannesburg. The moving spirit behind this art project is Justice Albie Sachs. And this book represents the complete visual documentation of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.
Reviewed by Federico Freschi in De arte (Pretoria) no. 80, 2009, pages 70-73.
Art from South Africa. Oxford: Museum of Modern Art: London: distributed by Thames and Hudson, 1990. 95pp. illus. (pt. color). N7392.A784 1990 AFA. OCLC 23088898.
"Art from South Africa," the exhibition organized by the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, kicked up a dust storm of controversy even before it opened in June 1990. This was not unexpected, as shown by some of the essays in the catalog. It brought onto a new stage some of the debates that had been raging already in South Africa. Controversies about the role of art in the political struggle, cultural appropriation, pluralism and domination, "transitional" art, all dealt with in essays in this catalog, remain unresolved. The exhibition attempted to be non-racial, showing works by artists from South Africa's different communities. Sixty-four artists are represented. The show later traveled "home" to South Africa.
Exhibition reviewed by John Picton in African arts (Los Angeles) 24 (3): 83-86, July 1991; by Pat Williams, "A hard-won place in the sun," Independent (South Africa) February 24, 1991, page 16; by Neville Dubow, "A picture of SA's polyglot art," Weekly mail (Johannesburg) July 3-6, 1992, page 22.
Reviewed by Nevill Dubow, "The Babel of South African art," Weekly mail (Johannesburg) January 10-16, 1992, pages 21-22.
Art routes: a guide to South African art collections / edited by Rayda Becker and Rochelle Keene. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 2000. viii, 248pp. illus. (color). N3810.S6A78 2000X AFA. OCLC 47081493.
Art routes is a directory of the major public art museums in South Africa, arranged by province. Highlights from each museum are illustrated. Many of the selections are works of living South African artists. There is an index to the artists. For each museum listed, the background of the collections is given along with contact details, open hours, and facilities.
Reviewed by Nessa Leibhammer in De arte (Pretoria) 64, September 2001, pages 96-100.
Berman, Esmé. Art & artists of South Africa: an illustrated biographical dictionary and historical survey of painters, sculptors and graphic artists since 1875. New enlarged edition. Cape Town: A. A. Balkema, 1983. xviii, 545pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. N7392.B47 1983X AFA. OCLC 11031114.
Berman's dictionary of South African art, first published in 1970, has become the standard reference book on the subject, though like any reference book, it will become dated and stand as an historical marker. The vast majority of artists, art movements, organizations, training centers treated by Berman refer to the white art establishment, although not exclusively so by any means. Entries for individual artists who merit consideration include basic biographical data, list of major exhibitions and public collections, and a summary of the artist's life and work, with illustrations. Appendices cover chronology of major exhibitions with participating artists and a list of South African artists exhibiting professionally since 1900.
Berman, Esmé. Painting in South Africa. Johannesburg: Southern Book Publishers, 1993. xxiv, 395pp., 99pp. of color plates. illus. (pt. color). ND1092.B49 1993 AFA. OCLC 31200286.
Painting in South Africa is a radically revised and repackaged version of Berman's 1975 The story of South African painting. It remains, as Berman states, a survey and "an outline of the sources, sequences and developments that have been significant [in South African painting], and a glimpse of the most prominent and influential careers and styles" (author's preface). The story begins in the nineteenth century and is carried forward chronologically to the present, told within the local South African context but related also to international movements and trends. White painters predominate, as painting was their preserve until recent decades. South African reality is accurately mirrored here, but a fair balance is struck in portraying latter-day developments. Certain painters are singled out along the way for their particular contributions, a roll call of major players. Among them: Hugo Naudé, J. H. Pierneef, Maggie Laubser, Irma Stern, Gregoire Boonzaier, Gerard Sekoto, Jean Welz, Walter Battiss, Alexis Preller, Larry Scully, Cecil Skotnes, Cecily Sash, Louis Khehla Maqhubela, William Kentridge, Malcolm Payne, Penelope Siopis, Karel Nel, Helen Sebidi, and Norman Catherine.
Between Union and liberation: women artists in South Africa 1910-1994 / edited by Marion I. Arnold. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005. xv, 230pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliogs. N7395.6B47 2005 AFA. OCLC 55665461.
Ndebele : performance and history beyond the modernist frame / Brenda Danilowitz -- Art, gender ideology and Afrikaner nationalism - a case study / Liese van der Watt -- Technologies and transformations : baskets, women and change in twentieth-century KwaZulu-Natal / Nessa Leibhammer -- Breaking the mould : women ceramists in KwaZulu-Natal / Wilma Cruise -- On pins and needles : gender politics and embroidery projects before the first democratic election / Brenda Schmahmann -- Narratives of migration in the works of Noria Mabasa and Mmakgabo Sebidi / Jacqueline Nolte -- Representing regulation - rendering resistance : female bodies in the art of Penny Siopis / Brenda Schmahmann.
Reviewed by Shannen Hill in African arts (Los Angeles) 42 (2) summer 2009, page 90; by Jeanne van Eeden in De arte (Pretoria) 73, 2006, pages 59-63.
Boston University. School of Visual Arts. South Africa: artists, prints, community: twenty-five years at the Caversham Press / Boston University School of Visual Arts and The Caversham Centre for Artists and Writers. Boston: Boston University College of Fine Arts, 2011. 100 pp. illus. (some color), maps. NE788.S6 B67 2011 AFA. OCLC 755092241.
Caversham Press, founded in 1985 at the height of apartheid, has become one of South Africa’s most successful printmaking studios. Founder Malcolm Christian was committed not just to art making but to collaboration with artists of all races. And many South African artists have had the opportunity to work at Caversham Press. This catalog marks the 25th anniversary with a retrospective look at Caversham prints.
Botschaften aus Südafrika: Kunst und künstlerische Produktion schwarzer Künstler / text by Minika Stötzel; foreword by Josef Franz Thiel. Frankfurt am Main: Museum für Völkerkunde, 1987. 156pp. illus. (Roter Faden zur Ausstellung, 11). N7392.B74 1987 AFA. OCLC 22436326.
The Museum für Völkerkunde in Frankfurt has in recent years shown a commitment to collecting and exhibiting modern art from outside Europe. This 1987 show which focused on art from South Africa, mainly from the 1970s and 1980s, included works by Hamilton Budaza, Peter Clarke, Smart Gumede, Austin Hleza, David Koloane, Billy Mandindi, Kagiso Mauthoa, Azaria Mbatha, Derrick Mdanda, P. David Mogano, George Msimango, Sam Nhlengethwa, Dan Rakgoathe, Sydney Selepe, Cyprian Shilakoe, Lucky Sibiya, Durant Sihlali, Tanki and Ephraim Ziqubu. Two other artists are showcased separately: Namibian John Muafangejo and South African Vuminkosi Zulu. In her text, Stötzel tries to place these artists and their work within the context of contemporary South Africa.
Brett Kebble Art Awards (2nd : 2004 : Cape Town, South Africa). The Brett Kebble Art Awards 2004. Cape Town: Marulelo Communications, 2004. 299pp. illus. (color). N7393.B75 2004 AFA. OCLC 57532703.
South African businessman Brett Kebble was murdered in 2005, two years after establishing the Brett Kebble Art Awards (BKAA), intended to showcase the best and brightest of South African artists. This second BKAA had over 2,000 submissions of which only 11% were finally selected for competition. The BKAA afforded an opportunity for emerging and less well known artists to gain exposure. The BKAA, which covered all artistic media with no size restrictions, was a juried competition in addition to which there was a selection committee which screened all the entries. The selected entries are published in this catalog along with a statement about the work by each artist. Clive van den Berg served as chief curator.
Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn Public Library. Black South African contemporary graphics; [exhibition held March 25-May 16, 1976] / introduction by Sylvia Williams. New York: Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn Public Library, 1976. 64pp. illus., bibliog. NE788.6.S6B87 AFA. OCLC 3479561.
Featured artists in this 1976 Brooklyn exhibition included Azaria Mbatha, Eric Mbatha, John Muafangejo, Dan Rakgoathe, Cyprian Shilakoe, Vuminkosi Zulu, Judes Mahlangu, Linda Nolutshungu and Caiphas Nxumalo. All were trained or worked at Rorke's Drift Art and Craft Center, well known for graphic arts instruction. The fifty-eight works illustrated are linocuts and etchings. Williams categorizes five themes in this group of graphics: love, birth, maturation and sexual consciousness; social protest of the human condition; psychological states -- the power of fear, silence, lonliness and despair; death; and hope for regeneration.
Cape Town Triennial (1982). Cape Town Triennial 1982 = Kaapstadse Trienniale 1982. [Cape Town]: Rembrandy van Rijn Art Foundation, . pp. illus. (pt. color). Text in English and Afrikaans. N7392.C23 1982 AFA. OCLC 31418432.
The Cape Town Triennial is intended "to bring together the best contemporary art being produced" in South Africa. Sixty-nine artists were represented at this first Cape Town Triennial; they are selected by local panels of judges from five regional centers: Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Kimberley. The gold medal went to Karel Nel; the silver, to Annette Pretorius; and the bronze, to John Clarke. The exhibition was held at the South African National Gallery and other venues in South Africa between September 15, 1982 and November 6, 1983.
Cape Town Triennial (1988). Cape Town Triennial 1988. Cape Town: Rembrandt van Rijn Art Foundation for the Cape Town Triennial, 1988. 75pp. illus. (pt. color). N7392.C23 1988 AFA. OCLC 19256767.
The Cape Town Triennial is a nationwide art competition in South Africa whose works go on tour in several exhibitions around the country. This third triennial selected eighty-five works with four winners who were exhibited at the South African National Gallery and other venues in South Africa between September 28, 1988 and January 7, 1990. Although this event is organized and funded by the white art establishment, there were ten black artists represented in 1988: Jackson Hlungwane, Noria Mabasa, Sfiso Mkame, Saint Mokoena, Tommy Motswai, Bonie Ntshalinshali, Derrick Nxumalo, Helen Sebidi, Mashego Segogela, and Tito Zungu.
Cape Town Triennial (1991). Kaapstadse Triënnial 1991 = Cape Town Triennial 1991 / introduction by Elza Miles; foreword by Christopher Till. Cape Town: Kunsstigting Rembrandt van Rijn, . 115pp. illus. (pt. color). Text in Afrikaans and English. N7392.C23 1991 AFA. OCLC 25328621.
The grand winner of the 1991 Cape Town Triennial was William Kentridge, and the three merit awards went to Willie Bester, Sandra Kriel and Russell Scott. They were chosen from a field of 137 artists, whose work made the final cut of six regional panels of jurors. As South Africa's most prestigious national exhibition, the Triennial carries in its wake great interest and controversy alike. Efforts to democratize and broaden the selection and evaluation of artists resulted in a greater diversity than evident in previous Triennials, but one might say that the Triennial itself in is a process of evolution. The selection of regional jurors has also been opened up and given freer reign, as we see by their published comments on the Triennial process. Elza Miles in her introduction highlights some of the outstanding and original art works in the 1991 Triennial. All 147 works in the exhibition are illustrated.
Exhibition reviewed by Christopher Till, "Melting pot's diffused focus," New nation (Johannesburg) May 8-14, 1992, page 23; by Judy Kukard, "Works of violence, decay...and hope," Southside (Cape Town) October 10-16, 1991, page 10; by Muffin Stevens, "Divergent art to expand definitions," South African arts calendar = Suid-Afrikaanse kunskalender (Pretoria) 17 (2): 22-23, 1992. See also Marilyn Martin, "Herhalings asook veranderings: Kaapstadse Tríënnale 1991," [Cape Town Triennial, 1991]. South African arts calender = Suid-Afrikaanse kunskalender (Pretoria: South African Association of Arts) 16 (3): 4-5, 1991.
For a critique of the skewed historical "package" of national art exhibitions, such as the 1985 "Tributaries" (see below) or the Cape Town Triennials, see T. H. King, "Tributaries and the Triennial: two South African art exhibitions," Critical arts (Johannesburg) 5 (3): 39-57, 1991. King addresses issues of selection criteria for exhibitions, access or lack of access, self-serving publicity and media attention versus real art criticism, and goals of sponsorship.
Coexistence: contemporary cultural production in South Africa / Pamela Allara, Marilyn Martin, and Zola Mtshiza. Waltham, MA: Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, 2003. 92pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. (page 92). N7392.2.A452003 AFA. OCLC 52206313.
The Coexistence exhibition project is a collaborative enterprise between the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University and the Art Division of the Iziko Museums of Cape Town. Its goal is “to analyze the role of cultural production in the socioeconomic transformation of [South Africa’s] evolving culture” in the post-Apartheid period. Essays by curators, artists, art critics from South Africa and the American curator Pamela Allara explore the political, economic, and social aspects of South African art since 1990. The artworks exhibited are almost all from 1995 to the present, representing a wide range of art production and artists.
Reviewed by Carol Boram-Hays in African arts (Los Angeles) 38 (1) spring 2005, pages 90-91. Exhibition reviewed by Sandra Klopper ijn ArtSouthAfrica (Cape Town) 2 (2) summer 2003, pages 58-60.
Collector's guide to art and artists in South Africa: the visual journey into the thoughts, emotions, and minds of 558 artists / compiled by Tai Collard. Claremont, South Africa: Twenty Two Press, South African Institute of Artists and Designers, 1998. 205pp. illus. (color). N7392.C65 1998X AFA. OCLC 44750884.
For each of the 558 artists listed in this directory, there is a condensed biography comprised of a brief statement by the artist, a reproduction of one work of art (occasionally more, sometimes none), a minuscule face portrait, birth date, preferred medium, education, group exhibition (very abbreviated), and most usefully, contact information. The majority of artists listed are painters. Only living artists are included. Artists living outside South African are excluded. Coverage is not comprehensive and there are some surprising omissions (e.g., Jane Alexander, David Koloane, Sue Williamson, Sophie Peters, Pippa Skotnes, to name a few).
Colours: Kunst aus Sudafrika / Katalogredaktion, Alfons Hug, Sabine Vogel. Berlin: Haus der Kulturen der Welt: Ars Nicolai, 1996. 190pp. illus. (chiefly color), bibl. refs. Text in German. qN7392.C65 1996 AFA. OCLC 36717722.
This large South African art exhibition held at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, May-August 1996, features works of thirty-six artists. The theme of "Colors" (as in "rainbow nation") was a celebration of the New South Africa emerging from apartheid and in the wake of the 1994 transition of power. The exhibition was a European venue for the South African component of the 1995 Johannesburg Biennale, "Africus." The artworks spread across the spectrum -- sculptures, installations, paintings, drawings, photographs, collages, and mixed media. All are illustrated. Biodata on the artists is included.
Included in the catalog are eight essays and contributions that provide the background and context: Colours / by Alfons Hug -- Die falsche Farbe / by Sabine Vogel -- Kunst und Kunstlersein in Sudafrika--einst und jetzt: Bongi Dhlomo-Mautloa im Gesprach mit Sabine Vogel -- Bild und Text : Vergangenheit und Zukunft in der sudafriken Kunst / by Andries Walter Oliphant -- Vom Werden : die Kunste des Moglichen / by Jane Taylor -- Die Perversitat meiner Geburt--die Geburt meiner Perversitat -- Kendell Geers -- Koloniale Gedachtniskunst / by Ivor Powell -- Die Regenbogennation--Identitat und Wandel / by Marilyn Martin.
Common and uncommon ground: South African art to Atlanta, April 12-June 7, 1996 / essay by Steven Sack, curator. Atlanta: City Gallery East, 1996. 48pp. illus. (color). N7392.C66 1996 AFA. OCLC 47079471.
South African Art to Atlanta was a bridge-building project conceived in 1993 by organizers Susan Woolf in South Africa and Eddie Granderson in Atlanta. Steven Sack, engaged as curator, assembled a multi-faceted exhibition comprised of professional artists, workshops artists, art projects and photo documentation of "People's Parks." The illustrated catalog Common and uncommon ground is the record of this collaborative art venture between the city of Atlanta and South Africa. It includes brief biographies of the artists and one or a few works each. All media are represented – painting, sculpture, mixed media, prints, installations, and photography.
Contemporary African photography from The Walther Collection: appropriated landscapes / edited by Corinne Diserens. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2011. 406pp. illus. (some color). TR115.C66 2011 AFA. OCLC 730413767
This weighty tome was published on the occasion of an exhibition held at The Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm, June 11, 2011- May 13, 2012. It featured works by Jane Alexander, Mitch Epstein, Angela Ferreira, Peter Friedl, David Goldblatt, Christine Meisner, Sabelo Mlangeni, Santu Mofokeng, Zanele Muholi, Jo Ractliffe, Penny Siopis, Mikhael Subotzky / Patrick Waterhouse and Guy Tillim.
Contents: Some Afrikaners, Bantustans, In Boksburg, Structures, Soweto, and Joburg, 1952-2009 / David Goldblatt -- Chasing shadows, appropriated spaces, landscapes, billboards, townships, Bloemhof, and train church / Santu Bofokeng -- The present-- "--luminous with another than a professional light"/ "--'Can you turn back?'" and Landscape and fate / Christine Meisner -- American power, 2004-2008 / Mitch Epstein -- African adventure : Cape of Good Hope, 1999-2000 / Jane Alexander -- Landscapes 2002-2009 / David Goldblatt -- Obscure white messenger / Penny Siopis -- Country girls and At home / Sabelo Mlangeni -- The power of naming / Zanele Muholi -- Drive by shooting and early works / Jo Ractliffe -- King Kong / Peter Friedl -- Avenue Patrice Lumumba / Guy Tillim -- Maison Tropicale and Political Camers (For Mozambique series) / Ângela Ferreira -- Jo'burg / Guy Tillim -- Ponte City / Mikhael Subotzky/Patrick Waterhouse -- Terreno Ocupado and As Terras do Fim do Mundo / Jo Ractliffe -- Artists' portraits.
Contemporary South African art: the Gencor collection / edited by Kendell Geers. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers, 1997. 168pp. illus. (color), bibliog. (pp. 165-166). N7392.2.C66 1997X AFA. OCLC 37843149.
In 1994 the Gencor corporation engaged South African artist and art critic Kendell Geers to develop its corporate collection of modern South African art for its new corporate headquarters in Johannesburg. Rather than acquire a random selection of art works, a central theme was chosen: the transition from the old to the new South Africa. The works acquired and commissioned are decidedly modern and predominantly political in content; most date to the 1980s and 1990s. In this published catalog of the Gencor collection, there are eleven essays by experts on various aspects of modern South African art. Contributors are: Kendall Geers, Lesley Spiro, Mark Pencharz, Elizabeth Rankin, Okwui Enwezor, Colin Richards, Elza Miles, Julia Charlton, Olu Oguibe, Marilyn Martin, and Ashraf Jamal.
Reviewed by Anthea Bristowe in Nka: journal of contemporary African art (Ithaca, NY) no. 8: 64, spring-summer 1998.
Cross, cross currents: contemporary art practice in South Africa, an exhibition in two parts; Atkinson Gallery, Millfield School, June to September 2000 / edited by John Picton and Jennifer Law. Street, Somerset, England: Atkinson Gallery, Millfield School, 2000. 120pp. illus. (color), bibliog. (page 60). N7392.C698 2000 AFA. OCLC 46928157.
South African art of the last two decades of the twentieth century was spawned by and reflects the final throes of apartheid and the early years of the Rainbow Nation. This transition out of apartheid remains a rocky road despite the euphoria of the birth of the New South Africa in 1994. Nation-building in heterogeneous, democratic South Africa is the backdrop for this large two-part exhibition held in the summer of 2000 in England. Diversity is the operative impulse both for curatorial choices and artistic intent.
The artists represented are Bill Ainslie, Beezie Bailey, Deborah Bell, Willie Bester, Willem Boshoff, Breyten Breytenbach, Lisa Brice, Marlene Dumas, Garth Erasmus, Leora Farber, Dumile Feni, Craig Hamilton, Kay Hassan, Jackson Hlungwani, Robert Hodgins, David Koloane, Dumisane Mbabso, Billy Mandindi, Chabane Manganyi, Louis Maqhubela, Johannes Maswanganyi, Kagiso Pat Mauthloa, Walter Meyer, Titus Moteyane, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Karel Nel, Albert Netshidzati, Sam Nhlengethwa, Johannes Phokela, Thabiso Phokompe, Phillip Rikhotso, Claudette Schreuders, Helen Sebidi, Phuthuma (Phatuma) Seoka, Durant Sihlali, Penny Siopis, Paul Tavhana, Dominic Tshabangu, and Sandile Zulu.
Included in this catalog are introductory essays by co-curators John Picton and Jennifer Law, and several other short essays by artists, art historians and critics, which together the provide history and context for contemporary South African art.
Reviewed (the catalog and the exhibition) by Mario Pissarra, "Cross currents: contemporary art practice in South Africa," Third text: critical perspectives on contemporary art and culture (London) 52: 95-102, autumn 2000.
De Jager, E. J. "Contemporary African sculpture in South Africa," Fort Hare papers (Fort Hare, South Africa) 6 (6): 421-458, September 1978. illus., bibliog. (p. 456). AS611.G6X AFA.
Contemporary black South African artists are part of what de Jager calls "neo-African art," meaning that their art retains the "essence" of traditional art forms but also strikes out in new directions. Black South African sculptors do not have, after all, the great sculptural traditions to draw upon, as do those sculptors from Western and Central Africa. Their art is a humanistic, people-centered art; it also expresses an awareness of urban life. Sculptors work mainly in wood (it is cheap and available), and they draw upon three sources: folklore, Christianity and daily life. Stylistically, their work is characterized as "African Expressionism." De Jager introduces ten sculptors with biographical information and comments on the work of each. They are: Michael Zondi (1926- ), Sydney Kumalo (1935- ), Ezrom Legae (1938- ), Lucas Sithole (1931-1994), Eric Ngcobo (1933-1987), Solomon Sedibane (1933- ), Stanley Nkosi (1945- ), Dumile (1939-1991), Cyprian Shilakoe (1946-1972), and Solomon Maphiri (1945- ). Brief mention is made of the Polly Street Centre and Ndaleni Art School. Twenty works (by some of the above and others) are illustrated.
De Jager, E. J. Art, artist and society: a social-historical perspective on contemporary South African black art. Mafikeng, Bophuthatswana: Institute of African Studies, University of Bophuthatswana, 1990. 31pp. (Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje memorial lecture, 18th October 1990. [not in AFA Library]. OCLC 27337237.
Art may be viewed aesthetically through the language of art criticism and art appreciation. Or it may be viewed through the socio-historical perspective of the artists and their society. Both approaches are valid. De Jager elects the latter approach in considering black South African artists and what he calls their "expressive culture." How have the particular historical realities of South Africa -- apartheid, township life -- shaped and defined black artistic expression over the past sixty years?
Three phases are apparent in the history of contemporary black art. The early pioneering artists and the few art centers available to blacks (Polly Street, Rorke's Drift) form the history of the period from the 1930s through the 1950s. By the 1960s a new Township Art movement had coalesced to define two more decades. By the 1980s yet a new stage was reached, one still in process of unfolding. The black art scene today in South Africa is witnessing many new, younger artists, including women, the emergence of an informal art sector, artists exploring non-figurative art styles, the growth of "transitional" art, the proliferation of urban mural art, the intensification of protest and resistance art, and the organization of black artists into associations and centers, such as FUBA (Federated Union of Black Artists) or CAP (Community Arts Project) in Cape Town. The chasm between black artists and white artists still exists, but it is being bridged.
De Jager, E. J. Contemporary African art in South Africa. Cape Town: C. Struik, 1973. 31pp., 128 plates. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. N7392.D4X AFA. OCLC 830033.
This was the first attempt to publish a substantial book on black South African artists. Although De Jager makes no claims to authority or art scholarship, he clearly felt a calling to begin the process of visual documentation. And this he has accomplished: a first step.
In his essay "Contemporary African art in South Africa" (pp. 17-31), he paints the peculiar South African backdrop against which these emerging artists must be seen, and he collectively attributes their artistic style to "humanisitic figurative expressionism." Within this encompassing stylistic category, he explores the content and themes of individual artists, highlighting several of the outstanding exemplars. The main part of the book is given over to illustrations. The majority of the works are from the University of Fort Hare collection.
A portion of De Jager's text appeared earlier in the article" Contemporary African art in South Africa," Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (Braunschweig) 96 (heft 2): 137-144, 1971.
Reviewed by John Povey in African arts (Los Angeles) 8 (2): 72-73, winter 1975.
De Jager, E. J. Images of man: contemporary South African black art and artists. Alice, Republic of Ciskei: Fort Hare University Press in association with the Fort Hare Foundation, 1992. , 220pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. N7392.D32 1992 AFA. OCLC 26617819.
The University of Fort Hare began collecting contemporary art of black South African artists in 1964, and consequently has one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of its kind in South Africa or anywhere. Using works from that collection, De Jager surveys twentieth-century black South African artists, according to a mixed schema of chronology, schools and movements, and media. All of the major artists are represented along with some less well-known ones. There are chapters on the five pioneer painters, on the township art movement, on Rorke's Drift, and on the sculptors. The art works are reproduced in color.
Decade of democracy: witnessing South Africa / edited by Gary van Wyk. Boston: South African Development Fund, 2004. 82pp. illus. (color). N7392.2.D433 2004 AFA. OCLC 56472189.
The tenth anniversary of South African’s new democracy was celebrated internationally with several art exhibitions in 2004. This exhibition was held at the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Arts, Boston, Massachusetts. Five essays and eight “perspectives” by scholars, critics, and artists provide the context and political-cultural environment for the art work exhibited. Twenty mostly younger artists (in their 30s) are featured.
Reviewed by Michael Herbst in ArtSouthAfrica (Cape Town) 3 (2) summer 2004, pages 86-87. Exhibition reviewed by Sandra Klopper in ArtSouthAfrica (Cape Town) 2 (4) winter 2004, pages 68-69.
Directory of South African contemporary art. volume 1: Painting 1997/1998 / introduction by Benita Munitz. Stanford, South Africa: Contemporary Arts Publishers in association with Africus Institute for Contemporary Art, 1997. 170, pp. illus. (color). N55.S6D574 AFA. OCLC 39244637.
This directory of South African painters includes those who could pay for space or get sponsors to do so. As such, it is limited primarily to white South Africans. The impetus behind the publication of this directory (the first of three planned volumes) is that artists should take the initiative to promote themselves and not rely on the vagaries of the art market and chance contacts. It is also propelled by a desire on the part of many of those represented to be liberated from the stranglehold of de rigeur political art. There are, after all, South African artists doing non-political art. Also included are gallery ads, a select listing of galleries, artists' studios and other art-related businesses, and an address list of South African painters.
Directory of southern African contemporary art practices. Volume 2: Ceramics, sculpture and works of art 1998/1999 / edited by Jean Campbell. Stanford, South Africa: Contemporary Arts Publishers, 1998. 175pp. illus. (color). N7395.6.D57 1998 volume 2 AFA. OCLC 42643173.
An effort to publicize contemporary South African art, this second volume of the directory lists more than 100 artists, the majority of whom (to judge by their names) are white artists. It also includes art galleries and dealers in South Africa. There are nice color illustrations showing one example of each artist’s work. The directory is oddly and unhelpfully arranged, neither alphabetically nor regionally, but rather randomly. Moreover, although its title indicates "ceramics, sculpture," most of the art work illustrated is painting ("works of art 1998/1999"). It does have biodata and contact information on some artists, but not all. There is a section on Zimbabwe stone sculptors supplied by Chapungu Sculpture Park in Harare.
Echoes of African art: a century of art in South Africa / compiled and introduced by Matsemela Manaka; foreword by Eskia Mphahlele. Braamfontein: Skotaville, 1987. 111pp. chiefly illus. (pt. color) (Skotaville graphic series, no. 2). qN7392.E18 1987 AFA. OCLC 17634113.
Although Manaka covers traditional South African art, his main interest in this work is the documentation of contemporary sculptors, painters and graphic artists. Chiefly illustrated, it contains many new and lesser known artists (as well as some of the older ones, such as Sekoto, Sithole, Dumile and Bhengu) who are working in the 1980s and who are strongly shaped by Black Consciousness. South African artists in exile are the most overtly political in their work.
The sculptors work more frequently in wood or clay than in metal because of availability and cost. Painters and graphic artists are found more often in the urban areas ("township art") and are more clearly Western-influenced than rural artists.
Reviewed by Brenda Danilowitz in African arts (Los Angeles) 21 (4): 84-85, August 1988; by Jacques Alvarez-Pereyre in Third world quarterly (London) 11 (3): 263-266, 1988; by Anitra Nettleton in South African journal of cultural and art history (Pretoria) 3 (3): 287-290, July 1989; by Andries Walter Oliphant in Staffrider (Braamfontein) 7 (1): 92-96, 1988; by Frieda Harmsen in South African journal of cultural and art history (Pretoria) 3 (3): 284-286, July 1989; by Amanda Jephson and Nicolaas Vergunst, "Imijondolo: black and white in gold," ADA: art, design, architecture (Cape Town) no. 6: 46, ; by J. L. F. in Africana news and notes (Johannesburg) 28 (6): 245, June 1989.
Engaging modernities: transformations of the commonplace: Standard Bank collection of African art (University of the Witwatersrand Art Galleries). Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand Art Galleries, 2003. 92pp. illus. (color). N7391.65.E54 2003 AFA. OCLC 52781892.
The engaged “modernities” are new forms-old media, new media-old forms, or some combination of novelty and originality of material and imagery. Colon figures, beaded jackets, objets of recupération, angels videotaping, AIDs wire baskets, dance staffs in the form of guns, barbershop signs, and test-tube necklaces – all engage modernity in some way. This collection belongs to the Standard Bank Collection of African Art, at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
Reviewed by Sandra Klopper in De Arte (Pretoria) no. 69, 2004, pages 107-109.
Garb, Tamar. Figures and fictions: contemporary South African photography. Göttingen, Germany: Steidi; London: V&A Publishing, 2011. 312pp. illus. (some color), bibliog. (pp. 77-85). TR119.S6G37 2011 AFA. OCLC 701807119.
This catalog was published to coincide with the exhibition Figures & fictions: contemporary South African photography in the Porter Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, curated by Tamar Garb and Martin Barnes, 12 April - 17 July, 2011. It presents images, with a focus on figural photography, produced between 2000 and 2010 by seventeen South African photographers: David Goldblatt, Santu Mofokeng, Guy Tillim, Pieter Hugo, Zwelethu Methethwa, Berni Searle, Jodi Bieber, Terry Kurgan, Zanele Muholi, Hassan and Husain Essop, Roelof van Wyk, Graeme Williams, Kudzanai Chiurai, Sabelo Mlangeni, Jo Ractliffe, Mikhael Subotzky, and Nontsikelelo Veleko. Tamar Garb’s essay offers a broad sweep of figural photography in South Africa as the background for the 21st century photos in this catalog.
Godby, Michael. The lie of the land: representations of the South African landscape. Cape Town: Iziko, 2010. 136 pp. illus. (color), maps, bibl. refs. N8215.5.S6 G64 2010 AFA. OCLC 658159680.
Landscape had been the touchstone of South African art from the earliest days of European occupation up to the present. Artistic imagination projected onto the landscape mirrors the imagining gaze, sacred and secular memories, the contestations over land, and the intrusions of man-made environment.
Contents: Pt. 1. Looking forward, looking back: beyond the narrative of loss and restoration in the history of land / by Cherryl Walker; Creating a sense of belonging: sacred and secular landscapes in the life experiences of South Africa's rural communities / by Sandra Klopper; An unsettled habitation: narratives of South African landscape / by Dirk Klopper; Reading the land: changing landscapes and the environmental history of South Africa / by Brett M. Bennett -- Pt. 2. The lie of the land / by Michael Godby; Introduction; Interface; Contestations; Interventions; Inventions; Interrogations.
This book is published to accompany the exhibition at The Iziko Michaelis Collection, Cape Town, June-September 2010; and Sanlam Art Gallery, Bellville, October 2010-January 2011.
Reviewed by Annemi Conradie in De arte (Pretoria) 84, 2011, pages 115-118.
Grantham, Tosha. Darkroom: photography and new media in South Africa since 1950. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2009. x, 150 pp. illus. (some color), bibl. refs. TR119.S6 G73 2009 AFA. OCLC 259716206.
On the cover of Darkroom: A Jürgen Schadeberg 1955 photo of Mariam Makeba, eyes closed, dress straps off her shoulders, singing in a nightclub. It draws you in to these South African photographs (1950s to 2007). The catalog features iconic images and recent entries by eighteen well known and some less familiar photographers. The exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, was curated by Tosha Grantham.
Essays: Darkroom: photography and new media in South African since 1950 / Tosha Grantham -- Africa and photography: then, now, and next / Isolde Brielmaier -- South Africa in focus / Tumelo Mosaka -- Back and forth on the here and now: a conversation / Isolde Brielmaier, Tumelo Mosaka, and Tosha Grantham -- Acts of faith and acts of resistance, 1950s-1970s -- Across the culture line, 1950s-1970s -- Separate living: a legacy of apartheid, 1970s-2000s -- A day in the life, 1970s-2000s -- Ambiguous truth and uneasy reconciliation, 1980s, 1990s -- Sacred space/Cityspace, 1990s-2000s -- Flash, 1990s-2000s.
Grundy, Kenneth W. "Cultural policy in South Africa: an inconclusive transformation," African studies review (Atlanta) 39 (1): 1-24, April 1996. bibliog. (pp. 23-24). DT1.A1A26 AFA. OCLC 01461411.
Includes discussion of the struggle of South African artists, cultural workers, and the art establishment during the transition from the apartheid to the post-apartheid periods. Also includes discussion of the African National Congress' Department of Arts and Culture, the Albie Sachs controversy, the National Arts Coalition, and other art groups.
Hobbs, Philippa and Elizabeth Rankin. Printmaking in a transforming South Africa. Cape Town: David Philip, 1997. ix, 204pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. (pp. 126-127). NE788.S6H62 1997X AFA. OCLC 38238931.
Printmaking in South Africa has been a medium of choice for artists across the color line. It serves those who lack access to well-equipped studios (usually black artists) as well as those who are better placed. Printmaking, however, has been overshadowed by painting and other fine arts media. This book by printmaker Hobbs and art historian Rankin is meant to redress this imbalance. Their approach is by print technique: relief, intaglio, planographic, stencil, mixed media and computer-generated. They highlight artists who are exploring each technique. The seventy-eight prints illustrated are all recent work, mainly from the 1990s, so this is not an historical look at South African printmaking. Includes "Register of South African printmakers" (pp. 128-137).
Hobbs, Philippa and Elizabeth Rankin. Rorke’s Drift: empowering prints. Cape Town: Double Storey, 2003. xv, 242pp. illus. (pt. color). NE788.6.S6H63 2003 AFA. OCLC 52126695.
The E.L.C. Art and Craft Centre, commonly known as Rorke’s Drift, nurtured a generation of social and politically astute artists who managed to survive under the shadow of apartheid in South Africa. Started in the early 1960s by two art-minded, agnostic Swedish hippies, Peder and Ulla Gowenius, Rorke’s Drift was not the missionary enterprise as commonly believed, even though it was under the umbrella of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) and operated within their precincts.
There are really two Rorke’s Drifts: the crafts workshops and the Fine Art School. The idea for arts training emerged from initial efforts of art-making as occupational therapy at the hospital at Ceza in 1962. Weaving of tapestries and printmaking were begun at first to train people to work in other hospitals in occupational therapy. Art as income-generating enterprise became a secondary, but increasingly important motivation. Azaria Mbatha, as a hospital patient, was one of the first to receive instruction at Ceza. He later was sent on scholarship to Sweden, and became a teacher at Rorke’s Drift. His preferred medium – linocut with black figures on white background – became the most popular medium of students at Rorke’s Drift and is widely (but incorrectly) thought of as the Rorke’s Drift style. Allina Ndebele, a hospital employee, also was an early student-teacher at Rorke’s Drift in the tapestry workshops. The linocut print designs were used by women tapestry weavers. The sale of tapestries in turn helped fund the Fine Art School. But gradually the workshop side of Rorke’s Drift was superceded by the Fine Art School, which was almost entirely male students, although the proceeds from tapestries sales funded the school.
In 1963 the Goweniuses moved to mission property at Rorke’s Drift, distancing themselves from the Lutheran affiliation and oversight, while not severing all ties. The idea of establishing a Fine Art School at Rorke’s Drift to complement the craft workshops germinated in 1968. Among the first students taken in 1968 were Dan Rakgoathe, Cyprian Shilakoe, and John Muafangejo. The Goweniuses were replaced by other Swedish art teachers, including Ola Granath, Otto Lundblom and Malin Lundblom, Jules and Ada van der Vijer, Keith van Winkel, and Americans Carroll Ellerton and Jay Johnson. Despite its solid reputation at home and abroad, the Rorke’s Drift Fine Art School had persistent financial, staffing and equipping problems, which ultimately led to temporarily closing the school in 1982, a closure that became permanent.
Stylistically, Rorke’s Drift prints are much more varied than generally thought. Different printing techniques, such as intaglio and screen printing, produced quite different prints in “look and feel.” But even among the linocut relief prints, style, perspective, and content varied. Peder Gowenius always believed in the social value and democratic nature of prints, and his activist philosophy pervaded Rorke’s Drift long after he departed. Thematically, too, Rorke’s Drift prints exhibit a diversity beyond the Christian narratives of Mbatha and Muafangejo. Social critique, Zulu identity, gender issues, political struggle, all show up in the prints. But even the Biblical prints could have “forbidden mesages,” as Gowenius realized. The graduates carried the spirit of Rorke’s Drift’s “empowering prints” into the struggle of the final decade of apartheid.
See also the special issue of Art talk (Sandton, South Africa) 4 (1) 2003, which is devoted to the history of Rorke’s Drift, the new book and related exhibition.
Reviewed by Pippa Skotnes in De Arte (Pretoria) no. 69, 2004, pages 92-94; by Leora Maltz in African arts (Los Angeles) 37 (2) summer 2004, pages 88-90; by Alex Dodd in Sunday independent (Johannesburg) July 27, 2003, page 18.
Huntley, Merle. Art in outline. volume 1: An introduction to South African art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. 182pp. illus. (pt. color), bibl. refs. N278.6.S6H95 1992 AFA. OCLC 30093004.
Learning how to appreciate art can be fun, as this lively textbook sets out to show. The context is South African art with much emphasis on the recent periods. Modern Western-style art fills two central chapters of Huntley's book: "Western art comes to southern Africa" and "The melting pot," in which she weaves a swift-flowing, never dull narrative of art trends, influences, and artistic intention. Many artists are brought into the well-illustrated discussion. Other sections of the book deal with older art traditions, including Eastern art influences, and architecture.
Reviewed by Frieda Harmsen in De arte (Pretoria) no. 47: 41-43, April 1993.
Images of defiance: South African resistance posters of the 1980's / the Poster Book Collective, South African History Archive. Johannesburg: Raven Press, 1991. ix, 181pp. chiefly illus. (color). DT1963.I46 1991X AFA. OCLC 26188033.
Posters have been very much part of the struggle in South Africa. Even publishing this poster book, which documents some of those produced under the broad umbrella of the ANC, would have been impossible a few years ago. Community, even underground, workshops provided venues for the cultural workers, who made the posters in less than ideal circumstances. See especially the introductory essay "Making posters in South Africa" (pp. 2-9). From exile in Botswana, the Medu Art Ensemble also created posters for distribution within South Africa.
The collection on which this book is based is that of the South African History Archive (SAHA). Through their foresight in collecting these posters, an important cultural-artistic component of the struggle against apartheid has been preserved. The 320 posters illustrated here in color are a selection from the two thousand owned by SAHA; they are presented in six broad categories by theme: politics, labor, community, education, militarization & repression, and culture.
Incroci del sud: arte contemporanea del Sudafrica: mostra collaterale con il patrocinio della XLV Biennale di Venezia 1993, giugno-dicembre 1993 = Affinities: contemporary South African art: collateral exhibition under the patronage of the XLV Venice Biennial 1993, June-December 1993; [exhibition Palazzo Giustinian Lolin, Venice, 1993]. Roma: Ambasciata del Sudafrica, 1993. 95pp. illus. (color). Text in Italian and English. N7392.I37 1993 AFA. OCLC 29018574.
South Africa rejoined the international art community through its official participation at the Venice Biennale in 1993. The twenty-seven artists, shown at three separate venues, were drawn from all segments of South Africa's multicultural society and were selected on the curatorial premise of "affinities" between the various communities of artists, black and white. At the Giardini di Castello, two artists were featured: Jackson Hlungwane and Sandra Kriel. Ceramic sculptor Bonnie Ntshalintshali showed separately. At the main venue: Willie Bester, Andries Botha, Norman Catherine, Keith Dietrich, Kendell Geers, Philippa Hobbs, Sfiso Ka Mkame, William Kentridge, David Koloane, Noria Mabasa, Trevor Makhoba, Johannes Maswanganyi, Tommy Motswai, Karel Nel, Tony Nkotsi, Malcolm Payne, Joachim Schönfeldt, Helen Sebidi, Mashego Segogela, Penny Siopis, Pippa Skotnes, Willem Strydom, Sue Williamson, and Tito Zungu.
See also the commentary by Mary Angela Schroth inAfrica e Mediterraneo: cultura e società (Bologne) 1 (6) no. 55, agosto 2006, pages 50-51.
Iziko Museums of Cape Town. A decade of democracy: South African art, 1994-2004: from the permanent collection of Iziko: South African National Gallery / edited by Emma Bedford. Cape Town: Double Storey Books; Cape Town: Iziko Museums of Cape Town, 2004. ix, 149pp. illus (pt. color), bibliog. (pp. 138-141). N7392.I95 2004 AFA. OCLC 56592662.
The first decade of democracy in the new South Africa spawned several art exhibitions and international celebrations. A decade of democracy is the major such exhibition in South Africa itself. It showcases the collections of the South African National Gallery, now part of the Iziko Museums of Cape Town. The art works, all created since 1994, represent a broad range of artists and media, black and white, local and expatriate. Many big name South African artists are represented as are several less well known, emerging artists. A dozen essays by curators, critics and artists provide a focused look at a cross-section of artistic production.
Reviewed by Michael Herbst in ArtSouthAfrica (Cape Town) 3 (2) summer 2004, pages 86-87. Exhibition reviewed by Ivor Powell in ArtSouthAfrica (Cape Town) 2 (4) winter 2004, pages 62-64.
Jephson, Amanda Anne. Aspects of twentieth century black South African art, up to 1980. M.A. thesis, Faculty of Fine Art and Architecture, University of Cape Town, 1989. 2 volumes. [volume 1, viii, 239 leaves; volume 2, plates]. illus., maps, bibliog. [unpublished]. N7392.J54 1989a AFA. OCLC 22883587.
Urban art of black South African artists flows from two streams of influence: Western-style art schools in South Africa and rural art forms and styles of South African blacks, notably figurative wood carving and mural painting. The evolution of modern art in South Africa is not unrelated to what occurred elsewhere on the continent, namely the decline of older art forms, the emergence of new popular forms, and the introduction of art schools and workshops as missionary enterprises or as academic programs. This comparative background is dealt with by Jephson in chapter 1. In the second chapter, she treats at length the rural art forms of figurative wood carving (Tsonga, Venda, Pedi, and Lovedu) and mural painting (Southern Sotho, Ndebele and Xhosa).
The beginning of urban black art is traced to four artists who are characterized as transitional figures: John Koenakeefe Mohl (1906-1985), Gerard Benghu (1910- ), George Pemba (1912- ), and Gerard Sekoto (1913-1993). All four of these artists developed and worked independently. Products of rural environments and mission schools, none had much formal art training.
The two principal art centers that became focal points for black South African artists and which are key to understanding the real emergence of urban art are the Polly Street Art Centre in Johannesburg and Rorke's Drift Art Centre, a missionary enterprise in KwaZulu (see chapter 3). These were the training grounds for the artists who came to the fore in the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, and it is this group of artists who are at the heart of Jephson's thesis. In the fourth (and central) chapter, she discusses the work of fifteen artists working in four media: sculpture, painting, drawing/mixed media, and printmaking. They are Sydney Kumalo, Lucas Sithole, Ezrom Legae, Gladys Mgudlandlu, Ephraim Ngatane, Louis Maqhubela, Leonard Matsosa, Tshidiso Andrew Motjuoadi, Mslaba Dumile, Tito Zungu, Azaria Mbatha, Daniel Rakgoathe, Lucky Sibiya, Cyprian Shilakoe, and John Muafangejo.
Volume 2 contains all plates.
Joburg Art Fair (1st : 2008 : Johannesburg, South Africa). Joburg Art Fair: directory / presented by First National Bank. Johannebsurg: Artlogic, 2008. 175, 79pp. illus. (pt. color). N7393.J633 2008 AFA. OCLC 229890762.
The Joburg Art Fair launched its first platform in 2008 with the goal of showcasing contemporary African art and attracting international buyers and sellers. Little surprise that South African galleries and South African artists were most prominently represented, but there were 22 galleries from seven countries present. The flipside was an exhibition curated by the indefatigable Simon Njami, which largely featured African artists in the diaspora. Curators, critics, gallerists, and artists participated in a collective Q & A, reflecting on the Joburg Art Fair.
Joburg Art Fair (2nd : 2009 : Johannesburg, South Africa). Joburg Art Fair / presented by FNB. Johannesburg: Artlogic, 2009. 337pp. illus. (chiefly color). N7393.J63 2009 AFA, OCLC 318100646.
The second annual installment of the Joburg Art Fair boasted “400 artists; 25 galleries; 12 special projects,” all presented in this catalog. It represents South Africa’s effort to position itself as the magnet for 21st century African art on the continent, particularly the market side as this is a commercial art fair. The 2009 Joburg Art Fair featured more non South African artists than in 2008, and this is the desired trajectory. The catalog itself is impressive, except for the stiff cardboard binding that makes it almost impossible to open.
Joburg Art Fair (3rd : 2010 : Johannesburg, South Africa). Joburg Art Fair catalogue 2010. Johannesburg: Artlogic, 2010. 197pp. illus. (chiefly color). N7393.J63 2010 AFA. OCLC 609784506.
Joburg Art Fair enters its third year optimistic if battered by the downturn in the art market. Seventeen South African galleries set up shop; six from abroad, the common thread being African artists. There were eight special projects featuring South African artists, designers, filmmakers, and workshops.
Kennedy, Jean. "South African artists speak for the voiceless," pp. 171-183. In: New currents, ancient rivers: contemporary African artists in a generation of change. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992. illus., bibl. refs. (pp. 192-193). N7391.65.K46 1992X AFA. OCLC 22389510.
South African "townships" are the crucible in which the art of black artists was forged, especially in the decades of the 1960s and 1970s. Making art, and indeed living life itself, was like walking on a tightrope. Death came early for Julian Motau (1948-1968), Winston Saoli (1950-died in prison), and Cyprien Shilakoe (1946-1972). Exile was a way out for others -- Louis Maqhubela (1939- ), Dumile Feni (1939-1991), and Gavin Jantjes (1948- ). Some endured and persevered at home -- Michael Zondi (1926- ), Lucas Sithole (1931-1994), Sydney Kumalo (1935-1988), Vumikosi Zulu (1947- ), John Muafangejo (1943-1987), Tito Zungu (1946- ).
Koloane, David Nthubu, 1938- "Moments in art," pp. 140-157, 316. In: Seven stories about modern art in Africa / organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery; concept and general editor, Clémentine Deliss. Paris; New York: Flammarion, 1995. illus. (color)., bibl. refs. (page 316). N7380.5.S49 1995 AFA. OCLC 33663281.
David Koloane, as invited curator to represent South Africa at the Whitechapel Art Gallery's "Seven Stories" exhibition, is expected to tell the South African story from an insider's perspective. The political realities of apartheid defined art production for both black and white artists, both in the limits it imposed and the stimulus it provided. This essay by Koloane sketches out his conception of this uniquely South African story. It reads, however, like an outline rather than the fully realized essay, which should have been published here.
Koloane, David Nthubu, 1938- "The Polly Street art scene," pp. 211-229. In: African art in Southern Africa: from tradition to township / edited by Anitra Nettleton and David Hammond-Tooke. Johannesburg: Ad. Donker, 1989. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. (page 252). N7391.7.A25 1989b AFA. OCLC 22501798.
Community art centers in South African townships have been (and still are today) the primary venues for teaching art to black youth. Among them, the Polly Street Art Centre in Johannesburg stands as the premier and certainly the most renowned of these informal art schools. Founded in 1948 -- the year after Gerard Sekoto left South Africa for Paris -- Polly Street Art Centre became a training ground for many of the talented black artists whose names are familiar today -- Durant Sihlali, Louis Maqhubela, Sydney Kumalo, Ezekiel Segola, and Louis Sithole. The philosophy of teaching art adopted by Cecil Skotnes (who became director in 1953) was that formal instruction should be set aside in favor of spontaneous creativity -- a philosophy that became a sore point with some of the artists, who felt that some grounding in principles of art was essential. In the 1960s the Centre moved to new quarters and was called Jubilee Centre, and in 1980 was renamed Mofolo Art Centre. Although some of these artists had commercial success in the white art galleries and enjoyed the patronage of whites, this was an exploitative, patronizing and ultimately limiting development -- a situation still unresolved.
Labour of love: Kunst aus Südafrika: die 80er jetzt / Weltkulturen Museum; edited by Yvette Mutumba and Gabi Ngcobo. Bielefeld: Kerber, 2016. 317pp. illus. (color), portraits, bibl. refs. N7392.L33 2016 AFA. OCLC 933212277.
"A Labour of Love" offers a new look at contemporary South African art in the 1980s. The Weltkulturen Museum (Museum of World Cultures) in Frankfurt had, prior to the Wind of Change speech and the culmination of the negotiations to end the apartheid system, already collected 600 artworks by exclusively black South African and nowadays famous artists such as John Muafangejo, David Koloane, Sam Nhlengethwa, Azaria Mbatha and Peter Clarke. This publication contains, alongside recently discovered works by young South African artists, new essays by international art specialists, interviews with artists, previously unpublished archival material, and more than 300 illustrations of artworks.
Liberated voices: contemporary art from South Africa / edited by Frank Herreman, assisted by Mark D'Amato. New York: The Museum for African Art; Munich; New York: Prestel, 1999. 190pp. illus. (color), bibliog. (pp. 185-188). qN7392.L53 1999 AFA. OCLC 43035759.
Can South African artists, black and white, learn to live without the enemy? Now that apartheid is history, how are artists confronting, challenging, and critiquing "post-apartheidism"? "Liberated Voices" explores that question with works of nine artists created between 1994 and 1999 - - the first five years of the New South Africa. Featured artists include Brett Murray, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Mbongeni Richman Buthelezi, Penny Siopis, Samson Mnisi, Thabiso Phokompe, Bridget Baker, Sandile Zulu, and Claudette Schreuders. For each artist, there is an essay by a critic or other artist; in two cases, the artists speak for themselves.
Commentaries on the recent South African past, artistic expression then and now, and "where do we go from her" are provided by poet Mongane Wally Serote, artist David Koloane, artist Sue Williamson, curator Mark D'Amato, critic Andries Oliphant, and anthropologist Kristine Roome.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Rankin in De arte (Pretoria) 64, September 2001, pages 89-95.
Lissoos, Sheree. Johannesburg art and artists: selections from a century. Johannesburg: Johannesburg Art Gallery, 1986. 96pp., 12pp. of plates. illus. (pt. color), notes, bibliog. qN7395.J65L77 1986 AFA. OCLC 19254834.
Marking the centenary of the city of Johannesburg and the 75th anniversary of the Johannesburg Art Gallery, a major retrospective exhibition of Johannesburg artists was mounted in 1986. The first part of this catalog features pioneer artists, those active between 1886 and 1939. It includes an historical essay on the growth of art institutions in Johannesburg during this period, notably the Johannesburg Art Gallery itself. Two prominent Johannesburg artists -- painter Willem Hermanus Coetzer (1900-1983) and sculptor Anthonie Van Wouw (1862-1945) -- are featured in a separate section. The third section focuses on the art centers of the 1950s and 1960s, including the Wits Group (associated with the fine arts department of the University of the Witwatersrand), the Amadlozi Group under the guidance of Egon Guenther (which included Sidney Kumalo), and the Polly Street Art Centre.
A succession of now well-known black artists passed through Polly Street Art Centre or taught there. Founded in 1948, it did not hold its first exhibition until 1955. Cecil Skotnes, appointed in 1952 as Cultural Officer, oversaw what can be seen, certainly in retrospect, as a vital artistic program for black artists. Sidney Kumalo was one of its most illustrious art teachers. In the 1960s Polly Street Art Centre closed; the program shifted to the Jubilee Social Centre. The latter-day spiritual successor to these early undertakings is the art center operated by FUBA (Federated Union of Black Artists).
Luggage is still labeled: blackness in South African art / a film by Vuyile C. Voyiya and Julie L. McGee. [South Africa]: Vuyile C. Voyiya and Julie L. McGee, 2003. 60 minutes. sound color DVD format. Features PAL and NTSC standards on alternate sides of the disc. video 000574 AFA. OCLC 52761698
For South African artists of color the demise of apartheid did not radically change access or attitudes. Separateness and difference still divide the contemporary art world into black and white. Black artists are beginning to take on some of these issues - - access, recognition, education. Despite initiatives such as Vakalisa ("Awake"), the Community Arts Project, or BLAC art project, South African artists of color are still disadvantaged. Formal art education, which was not available to artists of color in the apartheid days, remains an elitist enterprise with little collegial support. Michaelis School of Art in Cape Town has not yet shaken off its institutional racism in terms of student intake, faculty recruitment, or Eurocentric curriculum. Art criticism is similarly biased against artists of color. Old paradigms persist, e.g., "township art" or "black art." Artists are still pigeon-holed. Freedom of artistic expression has not really arrived. Where are the black art critics?
The South African National Gallery (SANG), formidable, unwelcoming, admits to huge gaps in its collections. Artists of color perceive SANG as another white bastion not yet breached. They feel that SANG is not interested in them and their work.
To explore these issues of race and access the filmmakers conducted interviews with several South African artists and players on the art scene. Among those on camera are Peter E. Clarke, Garth Erasmus, Thembinkosi Goniwe, Zayd Minty, Gavin Younge, David Koloane, Mgcineni Sobopha, Berni Searle, Lallitha Jawahirilal, Gabisile Ngcobo, Moshekwa Langa, Graham Faulken, Marilyn Martin, the director of SANG, and writer Lionel Davis.
Martin, Marilyn. "Is there a place for black abstract painters in South Africa," De arte (Pretoria) 44: 25-39, September 1991. illus. (color), notes, bibliog. qN8.A34A78 AFA.
One of the many artistic ghettos to which black South African artists are confined is the one labeled Figurative and Narrative Painting. To break out of this ghetto into the garden of abstraction, as a few have tried (David Koloane and Louis Maqhubela, for example), is to invite total ostracism and to be roundly criticized. The Thupelo Art Project is a dramatic case in point. There are many reasons why figurative and narrative work predominates among black South African painters, but, Martin argues, abstraction as a stylistic choice should not be off limits for anyone, black or white.
Memory and magic: contemporary art of the !Xun & Khwe / edited by Hella Rabbethge-Schiller. Johannesburg, South Africa: Jacana Media, 2006. 114pp. illus. (color), bibl. refs. N7391.7.M46 2006 AFA. OCLC 69309959.
The !Xun & Khwe Cultural Project, founded in 1993 in Northern Cape of South Africa, offered a haven to San people from Angola and Namibia, displaced by years of warfare. The Project worked with these self-taught artists in a therapeutic context. Their paintings and prints draw on oral tradition and mythology, but also memory and modernity. The exhibition “Memory and Magic” and this catalog feature eleven artists with biographies and selections of their art works.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Rankin in De arte (Pretoria) 75, 2007, pages 76-79.
Messages and meaning: the MTN Art Collection / edited by Philippa Hobbs. Johannesburg: MTN Foundation; David Krut Publishing, 2006. 301pp. illus. (pt. color). N5208.S62M76 2006 AFA. OCLC 71364429.
The art collection of MTN [Mobile Telephone Networks] is scarcely a decade in the making, yet has almost 1,400 artworks and a full-time curator, Philippa Hobbs. Site-specific works have also been commissioned for the new MTN headquarters in Johannesburg. In this book, the MTN collection is introduced and illustrated with essays by eleven specialists in particular areas of the collection. Although contemporary art predominates, the art team sought to build the depth and breadth of the collection by acquiring traditional African art from South Africa and from other African countries, and artworks from earlier periods in South Africa, including posters from the liberation struggle.
Originally intended to “decorate” the new headquarters, the resulting installation generated some opposition among MTN employees who either did not like the works or felt the collection was being built at the expense of their bonuses and salary increased.
Reviewed by Brenda Schmahmann in De Arte (Pretoria, South Africa) 75, 2007, pages 83-85.
Exhibition of the MTN collection was reviewed by Gisele Turner in Rootz Africa (Roggebaai, South Africa) 25, 2007, page 76.
Messages and meaning: the MTN Art Collection / edited by Philippa Hobbs. Johannesburg: MTN Foundation: David Krut Publishing, 2006. 301pp. illus. (some color). N5208.S62M76 2006 AFA. OCLC 71364429.
Miles, Elza. Land and lives: a story of early black artists. Cape Town: Human and Rousseau; Johannesburg: Johannesburg Art Gallery, 1997. 191pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. OCLC 39485472. N7395.6.M55 1997X AFA. OCLC 39485472.
Elza Miles, South African art historian, is helping to rescue unsung black South African artists through her research and writing. Her earlier book on Ernest Mancoba was a Noma Award Honorable Mention title in 1995 (Lifeline out of Africa), and she has also written a book on another black artist, Selby Mvusi. The present book, Land and lives, is more ambitious in scope; it presents forty-seven black South African artists (plus the work of a few anonymous artists) all born before 1930 (the criterion for inclusion). Her research grew out of a 1993 exhibition of six of the better known pioneering artists, during which she uncovered material on several "abandoned artists" and began documenting this broader history. The culmination of the effort is this book and a corresponding 1997 exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (an exhibition checklist of 144 works is included). Land and lives is more than an exhibition catalog, however. It will remain as a text on the subject long after the show closes. Although several of the forty-seven artists are familiar names -- Gerard Sekoto, Job Kekana, Peter Clarke, Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba, Gladys Mgudlandlu -- most are not household names, even in South Africa. In comparing Land and lives with the landmark exhibition catalog The neglected tradition (1988), it is fair to note that there is some overlap of artists covered. However, the scope of The neglected tradition being much broader, it treats the early artists less completely than Miles does in Land and lives.
Land and lives is essentially a biographical encyclopedia. The individual essays on each artist vary in length -- some run to several pages; others only a couple of paragraphs. Miles has tried to uncover as much as possible on each and to include at least one illustration of an artwork (usually more).
Miles is careful to point out the dramatic impact that access (or lack of access) to art education and mentoring had on these South African artists. In fact, the primary criterion around which she organized the book is just that -- the schooled and the unschooled. The predominant theme of the study is that these artists, both schooled and unschooled, took up art-making and continued to create despite the obstacles placed in their paths by apartheid, by poverty, by lack of opportunities for training, by overly protective/patronizing or "visually illiterate" mentors.
In the first of two sections, Miles treats those artists who lacked formal training and who remained relatively isolated throughout their lives. These early artists were not without mentors, and they did occasionally have their work exhibited in shows of "native arts and crafts." The artists discussed in the second section ("Emerging independence," she calls it) all had benefit of some post-secondary education or tutelage with other artists. In most cases, they had exposure to original art works and art books, which broadened their horizons. A few studied abroad. Although Miles' organizing device of schooled and unschooled is occasionally blurry (e.g., some "emerging independent" artists did not actually have formal art training), it is certainly one way of presenting the material. Others might argue that the art itself (rather than the background and training of the artist) is a more valid way of viewing art history. Still others might argue that the dialogue between artist and audience/mentors is the truest way to read art history. The role of mentors is itself a fascinating angle, because mentors are the leitmotif throughout these stories. As Miles draws the distinction, the untrained artists' work "seems to comply with the wishes of well-meaning mentors who were often visually illiterate and upheld the notion that art should be imitative. These artsist were required to make art that appeared natural and was often illustrative" -- (preface). By contrast, the independent artists were presumably much freer in their artistic expression.
Miles makes no claim to having done an exhaustive study. Other early artists will no doubt come to light -- for some reason, she does not include Jackson Hlungwane (ca. 1923- ), though he is mentioned in passing -- and more information on the lives and careers of the present artists is waiting to be discovered. Many of the artists are still alive or have family and colleagues still alive, so the task is far from complete. Miles herself interviewed many in the course of research. Ever modest about her goals, Miles' "homage" to the artists certainly builds a solid foundation, and future researchers will invariably refer back to this publication.
Reviewed by M. A. Nolte, "Finally, recognition for African art," Weekend Argus Saturday Books (Cape Town) February 7-8, 1998, page 17.
Miles, Elza. Polly Street: the story of an African art centre. Johannesburg: Ampersand Foundation, 2005. 166pp. illus. (color). N333.S683J645 2004 AFA. OCLC 57389839.
The Polly Street art center figures prominently in the history of black South African art, but there are lots of mis-perceptions and mis-information about the real story. Elza Miles seeks to set the record straight. The result is a rich and satisfying narrative that re-ignites the vitality and struggle of this Johannesburg art center from its founding in 1949 to the 1980s. In 1960 the art center moved from Polly Street to Jubilee Centre in Eloff Street, and in 1969 it moved again (squeezed out by anti-black legislation) to Mofolo Art Centre. Many of South Africa’s now revered black artists taught or studied art at Polly Street/Jubilee Centre/Mofolo Art Centre: Sydney Kumalo, Ephraim Ngatane, Louis Maqhubela, Ezrom Legae, Durant Sihlali, Dumile Feni, and Dan Rakgoathe, among others.
The book is generously illustrated with color reproductions of art works produced by Polly Street artists and archival photographs of students, teachers, and art studios. Cecil Skotnes is the teacher most closely associated with Polly Street - - and he was indeed a seminal figure - - but there were many others. The art students executed several commissions for churches, including murals, mosaics, sculpture and statuary, and they sometimes explored religious themes in their own more personal work. But secular themes, addressing social and political issues, are as strongly present in their work as are purely expressive works that have nothing to do with apartheid. Miles’ story ends in 1981 with the retrospective exhibition “Black Art Today,” which was the culmination of thirty years of Polly Street/Jubilee/Mofolo art center.