03 December 2016

South Africa: art of a nation

The South Africa exhibition at the British Museum is introduced online by some nice little videos. 

I took notes and drew little pictures in my notebook, the pictures getting ever smaller and sketchier.... I don't have a clear grasp of South African history and the exhibition made me want to know more, to put it all into context. Kruger, Smuts, the Boer War ... so much that was so far away from where I went to school; we learned nothing about it. There were nine Xhosa frontier wars, for heaven's sake.

What sticks in my mind is the leather sandals made by Ghandi while imprisoned, and given to General Smuts on being set free; in 1939, as Ghandi celebrated his 70th birthday, Smuts wrote to him that he'd worn the sandals during many summers, and felt humble to be wearing the shoes of such a great man ... or something like that. 

Also, the ballot paper for the first election - I counted 19 parties, and for each the picture of the party's logo, and photo of the candidate. But even so, quite intimidating! People were so proud to be voting....
Partial 1994 election ballot (via)
There was old art and new art - a pebble collected by an Australopithicene, 3 million years ago, because it had accidental markings that made it resemble a human face; it was not a type of rock found in the neighbourhood. Think of that, 3 million years ago... the Makapansgat pebble -
The Makapansgat pebble - an example of early curiosity (via)
New art - lots of it, it swirls in my head and nothing singular appears. Ah, Karel Nel's work - the two ochre squares, red ochre and white ochre -
And conceptual artist Willem Boshoff's Bad Faith Chronicles (explained here) - 11 panels, each with a bible in one of South Africa's official languages -
Detail from Bad Faith Chronicles

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