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SA ART - POST 1960. At the end of the 1950’s Jet Travel brought about more communication with overseas - many artists traveled overseas & came into contact with overseas trends.

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SA ART - POST 1960

At the end of the 1950’s Jet Travel brought about more communication with overseas - many artists traveled overseas & came into contact with overseas trends.


A quest for a SA identity became a concern. SA artists were aware of contemporary international art and wanted to associate with this art, but were also aware of the dissimilarities in physical surroundings, culture & society between SA & overseas countries.


Amadlozi Group was established by 5 Johannesburg artists & these artists tried to create an “Africaness” in their work. Amadlozi (Zulu) means “spirit of our ancestors”

Sash, Cattaneo, Skotnes, Khumalo & Villa



        • The Cape Colony, Natal, the Transvaal, and the Orange Free State join to form the Union of South Africa
  • 1912
        • South African Native National Congress (NNC) founded; later becomes the African National Congress (ANC)
  • 1913
        • Native Land Act limits African landownership to the reserves; the beginning of a series of segregation laws
  • 1948
        • The Afrikaner National party wins a general election and begins to apply its policy of apartheid
  • 1950
        • The Population Registration Act classifies people by race; the Group Areas Act makes people reside in racially zoned areas
  • 1952
        • The ANC and its allies launch a passive resistance campaign
  • 1959
        • Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) founded

Township Art And the Polly Street art center:

  • artistic activity had occurred in townships in the past but the tide of art that rose out of the townships in the 60’s was unprecedented.
  • Polly street art center - played a very NB role in this - it was a minor section of a welfare complex in JHB, this section was run by Skotnes In 1952 when he started - the art center only had one student - by the time he left in 1966 township art had become a positive reality.
  • Township art focussed on the human situation Primary theme = everyday life.
  • Township art had no specific aesthetic principles, no particular style, but allowed black artists to develop. Most artworks were figurative (Townships were different to when Sekoto depicted them) Soweto was larger & most artists suffered felt isolated & their art was a form of self affirmation. The Black consciousness movement coincided with township art


        • African and Coloured representation in Parliament (by Whites) terminated
        • Police kill 67 African anti-pass law demonstrators at Sharpeville; the government bans African political organizations
  • 1964
        • Nelson Mandela and other ANC and PAC leaders sentenced to life imprisonment
  • 1976-77
        • Confrontations between Africans and police in Soweto and other African townships, at least 575 people die
  • 1976-81
        • South Africa grants "independence" to the Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and the Ciskei Homelands, but they are not recognized abroad
  • 1977
        • Bantu Stephen Biko dies, September 12, 1977, from head injuries suffered while in police custody.
        • The U.N. Security Council imposes a mandatory embargo on the supply of arms to South Africa

The 70’s & 80’s:

The UN censured SA in the 60’s & in 1974 it suspended SA’s membership from the UN. Sanctions were intensified & SA artists were prevented from exhibiting overseas (mainly white SA artists)

June 16 1976 - Significant for SA art - some artists became involved in the struggle & some were detached.

Protest painting - varied from confrontational imagery to symbolic art that disguised its meaning.

In Europe their was resurgence in figurative trends & SA mirrored these trends & experimented with styles like Superrealism & Pop.

Gender politics became an international issue in the 70’s & SA artists engaged in this as well.


Paul StopforthThe Interrogators, 197971 x 39" Graphite and wax on board

Painted in 1979, Interrogators, It represents the three men who tortured, interrogated, and killed Steve Biko. Following his death in 1977, Biko became a major symbol of resistance against apartheid. During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, in the mid 90’s, the three officers involved in Biko’s interrogation were questioned while appealing for amnesty.


Transitional art

Various exhibitions & competitions emerged in the 80’s that promoted the arts & the development of artists. One exhibition called Tributaries (sponsored by BMW) had an impact on the recognition of various styles of art making. The organizers asked an artist - Ricky Burnett to collect work that represented the contemporary spirit of art in SA

Drew on work of less well known artists & established artists & also sought out black urban & rural craftsmen. The resulting exhibition challenged convention & was aesthetically diverse.

Many of the controversial pieces were neither traditional ritual art nor fitted the formal principles of western sculpture.

The term Transitional art is controversial - many people use it to refer to the period when the objects were produced. (can imply that the artists are “on their way” to a mature identity.


80’s & 90’s

Multiculturalism - ethnic diversity (Integration of Western & folk art )

The future of SA artists & others elsewhere seems to lie in recognising the prodigious wealth reposited in varied ethnic heritage, and in redefining their identity within the context of that cultural diversity.



        • ANC guerrillas sabotage South African cities
  • 1984
        • A new constitution gives Asians and Coloureds but not Africans limited participation in the central government; Botha becomes state president
  • 1984-86
        • Prolonged and widespread resistance to the regime in black South African townships; violent government reactions
  • 1985
        • First contacts between the government and imprisoned and exiled ANC leaders
  • 1986
        • Pass laws repealed
        • The government proclaims a nationwide state of emergence, detains thousands of people, and prohibits the press, radio, and television from reporting unrest
  • 1989
        • De Klerk succeeds Botha, first as leader of the National party, then as president
  • .


        • De Klerk unbans the ANC, PAC, and SACP; releases Mandela and other political prisoners
  • 1990-91
        • Population Registration Act, and Separate Amenities Act repealed; political organizations unbanned; state of emergency revoked
        • Delegates from 18 parties start formal negotiations
  • 1993
        • Negotiations resume; de Klerk, Mandela, and leaders of 18 other parties endorse an interim constitution
  • 1994
        • The ANC wins first nonracial election (April 27-30)
        • Nelson Mandela is sworn in as president (May 10) and forms Government of National Unity
        • Foreign governments lift sanctions
  • 1995
        • The Constitutional Court abolishes the death penalty
  • 1996-97
        • Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the body charged with investigating crimes committed during the apartheid era in South Africa

Make sure you know what the following terms mean with regard to this section

  • Indigenous art - local art
  • Western influenced art
  • Transitional art - made in early 80’s & does not fit into traditional craft categorisation nor does it fit into western categorisation
  • Contemporary art - contemporary = of the times (contemporary art for us is art that is made now) for SA art = post 1960 art
  • The following web site is useful for an overview of this art period: