South African Art

Introduction goes here

 

98,000 BC – Present

The art of the peoples of South Africa is the oldest known art in the world, dating back over 100,000 years. The archeological discoveries there help scholars to date the evolution of cognition and intelligent progression.

South African art in the modern era is influenced and molded by the trials of the South African people under apartheid and the years of European involvement in the area expressed in the found art of Africans making sense of modern traditions, and the Dutch influence on both white and black artists.

With the many tribes, languages, cultures, and races of South Africa, there is a very diverse and eclectic art scene in historical and contemporary South Africa.

South African Art Origins and Historical Importance:

Paleolithic South African Art:

Blombos cave South African Art

The very beginnings of art, not just for South Africa, but for the world, were found at the Blombos cave. This ancient art studio contained paint pots in the form of shells that were used to store mixed paints from disparate sources. This proved to archeologists that early man may have been more sophisticated than previously thought. Whatever it was that they painted, be it clothing, faces, or the walls of the caves, the South African climate, particular in this sea cave is not conducive to the permanent survival of art.

What has been found of ancient South African art are the cave paintings of the Khoisan, San, and Bushman tribes dating to 10,000 BC. Other cave painters left behind scenes of hunting and domestic life, and also of spiritual and magical art. The colors used are derived from nature and are therefore mostly in earth tones such as black, yellow, red, orange, white, and gray.

“The drawings don’t start with ‘a beautiful mark’. It has to be a mark of something out there in the world. It doesn’t have to be an accurate drawing, but it has to stand for an observation, not something that is abstract, like an emotion”. – William Kentridge

Cave scenes portray battles and hunts, animals, dancing, and later, white hunters on horseback. The figures are shown in long forms in action and some figures that are either dancing or participating in the shamanic rituals are costumed in clothing in unusual patterns and prints and are often wearing masks. It is unknown if these are people drawn from life, or if these represent symbolic characters. The symbols, themes, and subjects of the South African cave paintings are similar to what is seen in cave and rock paintings all over the world.

European Influence:

The Boers, better known as the Dutch, and the English came to South Africa in the mid-19th century and the art of the Europeans that remained and the traditional art of the indigenous tribal people began to mix. The end of the 19th century spurred some artists to move away from this mixed art and begin studying art in realism, creating a unique art free from both European and native influences.

Indigenous people South African Art

Under European colonization, the native people suffered under racial segregation and prejudice. The English established museums, universities, art schools, and other education opportunities, but they were not ones open to the indigenous. However, white intellectuals and artists seeking inspiration from the art and culture of the African people sought them out and some artistic instruction was imparted by collaboration.

As the tide of the world was changing to strive for respect of all peoples, the artists of South Africa, both white and black began to protest against apartheid, and against the cultural boycott on South Africa. Their success led to South African artists stepping up to a level global playing field.

“I don’t know how one actually would define obscenity. I’m sure the definition is different according to the age one is living in”. – Jane Alexander

South African Art Key Highlights:

  • South Africa is home to the Thupelo Workshop, an annual workshop that brings artists from all over the world to share the diversity of artistic style, technique, and motivation with the global community of artists.
  • The San culture are hunter-gatherers that are still in existence, but as their culture fades and there are fewer San artists, galleries are stepping in to help keep their art and culture alive.
  • The lack of galleries on the Cape has given artists in that area freedom of expression without the restriction of pleasing the intellectual middle classes.
  • The Ndebele tribe is known for its graphics geometric paintings on houses. The paints used were traditionally made from natural sources, but the Ndebele are now sometimes being supplied with commercial paints.
  • Because of the rampant poverty in South Africa, poor artists use found media to create art. The talent and vision of the South African people is evident in the beauty they are able to create from these materials. For instance, baskets spiraling in vivid bright colors look to be made from highly died natural materials but are, in fact, made from telephone wires.

South African Art Top Works:

  • San Bushmen Rock Paintings – Drakensberg Mountains
  • Elephants Charging over Quartos Country – Thomas Baines
  • An Extensive View of Farmlands – JH Pierneef
  • Pretoria Mural – Walter Battiss
  • Song of the Pick – Gerard Sekoto
  • The Rice Lady – Vladimir Tretchikoff
  • The Conservationists Ball – William Kentridge
  • The Butcher Boys – Jane Alexander
  • Ndebele Beadwork
  • Zulu Baskets

Art History Movements (Order by the period of origin)

Dawn of Man – BC 10

Paleolithic Art (Dawn of Man – 10,000 BC), Neolithic Art (8000 BC – 500 AD), Egyptian Art (3000 BC - 100 AD), Ancient Near Eastern Art (Neolithic era – 651 BC),  Bronze and Iron Age Art (3000 BC – Debated), Aegean Art (2800-100 BC), Archaic Greek Art (660-480 BC), Classical Greek Art (480-323 BC ), Hellenistic Art (323 BC – 27 BC), Etruscan Art (700 - 90 BC)

1st Century to 10th Century

Roman Art (500 BC – 500 AD), Celtic Art. Parthian and Sassanian Art (247 BC – 600 AD), Steppe Art (9000BC – 100 AD), Indian Art (3000 BC - current), Southeast Asian Art (2200 BC - Present), Chinese and Korean Art,  Japanese Art (11000 BC – Present),  Early Christian Art (260-525 AD,  Byzantine Art (330 – 1453 AD), Irish Art (3300 BC - Present), Anglo Saxon Art (450 – 1066 AD), Viking Art (780 AD-1100AD), Islamic Art (600 AD-Present)

10thCentury to 15th Century

Pre Columbian Art (13,000 BC – 1500 AD), North American Indian and Inuit Art (4000 BC - Present), African Art (),  Oceanic Art (1500 – 1615 AD), Carolingian Art (780-900 AD), Ottonian Art (900 -1050 AD), Romanesque Art (1000 AD – 1150 AD), Gothic Art (1100 – 1600 AD), The survival of Antiquity ()

Art History - 15th century onwards

Renaissance Style (1300-1700), The Northern Renaissance (1500 - 1615), Mannerism (1520 – 17th Century), The Baroque (1600-1700), The Rococo (1600-1700), Neo Classicism (1720 - 1830),  Romanticism (1790 -1890), Realism (1848 - Present), Impressionism (1860 - 1895), Post-Impressionism (1886 - 1904), Symbolism and Art Nouveau (1880 -1910), Fauvism , Expressionism (1898 - 1920), Cubism  . Futurism (1907-1928 )Abstract Art (1907 – Present Day), Dadasim,. Surrealism (1916 - 1970),. Latin American Art (1492 - Present, Modern American Art (1520 – 17th Century), Postwar European Art (1945 - 1970), Australian Art (28,000 BC - Present), South African Art (98,000 BC - Present)

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South African Art  – Major Artworks

Art History Movements (Order by the period of origin)

Dawn of Man – BC 10

Paleolithic Art (Dawn of Man – 10,000 BC), Neolithic Art (8000 BC – 500 AD), Egyptian Art (3000 BC - 100 AD), Ancient Near Eastern Art (Neolithic era – 651 BC),  Bronze and Iron Age Art (3000 BC – Debated), Aegean Art (2800-100 BC), Archaic Greek Art (660-480 BC), Classical Greek Art (480-323 BC ), Hellenistic Art (323 BC – 27 BC), Etruscan Art (700 - 90 BC)

1st Century to 10th Century

Roman Art (500 BC – 500 AD), Celtic Art. Parthian and Sassanian Art (247 BC – 600 AD), Steppe Art (9000BC – 100 AD), Indian Art (3000 BC - current), Southeast Asian Art (2200 BC - Present), Chinese and Korean Art,  Japanese Art (11000 BC – Present),  Early Christian Art (260-525 AD,  Byzantine Art (330 – 1453 AD), Irish Art (3300 BC - Present), Anglo Saxon Art (450 – 1066 AD), Viking Art (780 AD-1100AD), Islamic Art (600 AD-Present)

10thCentury to 15th Century

Pre Columbian Art (13,000 BC – 1500 AD), North American Indian and Inuit Art (4000 BC - Present), African Art (),  Oceanic Art (1500 – 1615 AD), Carolingian Art (780-900 AD), Ottonian Art (900 -1050 AD), Romanesque Art (1000 AD – 1150 AD), Gothic Art (1100 – 1600 AD), The survival of Antiquity ()

Art History - 15th century onwards

Renaissance Style (1300-1700), The Northern Renaissance (1500 - 1615), Mannerism (1520 – 17th Century), The Baroque (1600-1700), The Rococo (1600-1700), Neo Classicism (1720 - 1830),  Romanticism (1790 -1890), Realism (1848 - Present), Impressionism (1860 - 1895), Post-Impressionism (1886 - 1904), Symbolism and Art Nouveau (1880 -1910), Fauvism , Expressionism (1898 - 1920), Cubism  . Futurism (1907-1928 )Abstract Art (1907 – Present Day), Dadasim,. Surrealism (1916 - 1970),. Latin American Art (1492 - Present, Modern American Art (1520 – 17th Century), Postwar European Art (1945 - 1970), Australian Art (28,000 BC - Present), South African Art (98,000 BC - Present)