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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

The Art of Life in South Africa is very much about how people lived in conversation (and limited by) their perception of the possible” – read the JRB interview with Daniel Magaziner

From 1952 to 1981, South Africa’s apartheid government ran a school for the training of African art teachers at Indaleni, in what is today KwaZulu-Natal.

The Art of Life in South Africa is about the students, teachers, art, ideas, and politics that led to the school’s founding, and which circulated during the years of its existence at a remote former mission station.

It is a story of creativity, beauty, and community in twentieth-century South Africa.
Daniel Magaziner radically reframes apartheid-era South African history. Against the dominant narrative of apartheid oppression and black resistance, this book focuses instead on a small group’s efforts to fashion more fulfilling lives through the ironic medium of an apartheid-era school. Lushly illustrated with almost 100 images, this book gives us fully formed lives and remarkable insights into life under segregation and apartheid.

Daniel Magaziner is associate professor of history at Yale University. He is the author of The Law and the Prophets: Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968–1977.

‘A richly suggestive and moving contribution to South African intellectual history.’
— Achille Mbembe, author of Critique of Black Reason

‘This book is as important for students of global modernism as it is for scholars of South African art, history, and politics.’
— Tamar Garb, author of Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography

‘A profoundly human story of the institutional and social constraints under which African artists operated and the different ways they sought to produce beauty in the midst of oppression.’
— Frederick Cooper, author of Africa in the World: Capitalism, Empire, Nation-State

‘A meditation on what happens if we examine a past that is shaped by broader historical forces (in this case apartheid) but that cannot be reduced to them.’
— Clifton Crais, coeditor of The South Africa Reader: History, Culture, Politics

Daniel recently was in South Africa for the launch of The Art of Life in South Africa, during which he was interviewed by Johannesburg Review of Books editor, Jennifer Malec:

The JRB: The Art of Life in South Africa centres mainly on Ndaleni, an apartheid-era, government-funded art teacher training school outside Richmond in the Natal Midlands that has been all but forgotten. How did you come across this story?

Daniel Magaziner: Like most students of South African history, I had never heard of Ndaleni before I began to do this research. I was attempting to research the intellectual history of black artists during the twentieth century and was spending many hours in the basement of the Johannesburg Art Gallery getting frustrated because the voices and opinions of white reviewers were drowning up whatever artists’ voices I could access. I was reading a short biography of an artist named Dan Rakgoathe and learned that he had corresponded with someone named ‘L Peirson’. There were generous excerpts from his letters, which led me to think that these files might be a useful source, so I tracked them down at the Campbell Collections in Durban. Long story short, it turned out that L Peirson was the head teacher at the Ndaleni art school, where Rakgoathe had studied during the early 1960s, and that the Campbell Collections held the entire archive of the school, in a cabinet locked since the early 1980s. The Rakgoathe correspondence file was voluminous and it was only one among many similarly voluminous files.

The JRB: Why do you think Ndaleni has been neglected in South African art history?

Daniel Magaziner: I think there are many reasons why the school has been neglected in art history; I’ll highlight two. The first is that it was not in the strictest sense an art school and art history, both in South Africa and elsewhere, is a very elitist discipline that typically focuses on those artists who were trained and identified as such at the expense of those cultural producers who come from a different tradition and practice. Ndaleni was a teacher training institution, first and foremost; the students were to be art teachers, not artists. To this we can add the second element: it was a government school, run by and for the purposes of Bantu Education. This reality is at odds with the conventional wisdom on South African art, which has long been interested in the intersection between artists and resistance and certainly not interested in exploring the co-production of South African art and separate development. I surveyed art historical texts about black South African art from the 1960s through the present and this process of forgetting was quite apparent. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Ndaleni was well known both to people interested in South African art, both locals and internationals, before it was gradually effaced as other black artists with more ‘conventional’ training and politics rose to prominence. The end result of this was made quite clear in Wits University Press’s recent multi-volume collection, Visual Century, where the Ndaleni school earns a only a paragraph.

The JRB: Your first book, The Law and the Prophets, focused on Black Consciousness and the student and resistance movements of 1970s South Africa, when politics was seen as a ‘way of being’ and was a dominant force in the world of art specifically. In The Art of Life in South Africa, the picture is subtly different. Could you talk a little bit about that difference?

Daniel Magaziner: Like many Americans of my generation, I was first exposed to South African history through the lens of the struggle against apartheid. Steve Biko and Black Consciousness were a tremendous intellectual and political inspiration for me personally and I was fortunate to spend many years studying and writing about the movements and its times. But even as I continue to be fascinated and inspired by its politics, I have also begun to recognise that Biko and his comrades were exceptional (as revolutionaries often are) and not necessarily representative of a more widespread intellectual experience under apartheid. More common than those who ‘were’ against the system were those who strove to live along the grain of what the system allowed; this was true in South Africa and it remains true around the world, where the majority of human beings struggle to find meaning and self-definition within the realm of the possible, rather than by probing beyond current realities (as Biko had once done). The Art of Life in South Africa is very much about how people lived in conversation (and limited by) their perception of the possible, something I strive to get at by considering subjects such as the material limitations of art production, for example, as well as the ethical compromises that training at a government institution and teaching in Bantu Education entailed. My argument is a classically historicist one—the beauty and worth such historical subjects produced must be seen in the light of context in order to be assessed and understood.

Continue reading their interview here.

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Book launch: The Art of Life in South Africa by Daniel R. Magaziner

University of KwaZulu-Natal Press and Adams Books cordially invite you to the launch of The Art of Life in South Africa by Daniel Magaziner.

Event Details

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IsiShweshwe traces the origins of the cloth, its early usage, and cultural adaptations

The cross-cultural usage of a particular cloth type – blueprint – is central to South African cultural history.

Known locally as seshoeshoe or isishweshwe, among many other localised names, South African blueprint originated in the Far East and East Asia.

Adapted and absorbed by the West, blueprint in Africa was originally associated with trade, coercion, colonisation, Westernisation, religious conversion and even slavery, but residing within its hues and patterns was a resonance that endured.

The cloth came to reflect histories of hardship, courage and survival, but it also conveyed the taste and aesthetic predilections of its users, preferences often shared across racial and cultural divides.

In its indigenisation, isishweshwe has subverted its former history and alien origins and has come to reflect the authority of its users and their culture, conveying resilience, innovation and adaptation and above all a distinctive South Africanness.

In this beautifully illustrated book Juliette Leeb-du Toit traces the origins of the cloth, its early usage and cultural adaptations, and its emerging regional, cultural and aesthetic significance.

In examining its usage and current national significance, she highlights some of the salient features associated with histories of indigenisation.

An art historian who has a particular interest in African and South African art, Juliette Leeb-du Toit has also had a lifelong interest in design and textiles. She is currently engaged in the recovery of modernisms in design history, the impact of German modernism in South Africa and the impact of China on the arts in South Africa.

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Book launch: The Illustrated Glossary of Southern African Architectural Terms

Franco Frescura, one of the authors of Illustrated Glossary of Southern African Architectural Terms will be giving talks on this book and its impact not only on architecture, but also on an inclusive account of cultural history in SA

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Breathing Spaces – a photographical exploration of the relationship between people and their neighborhoods in Durban


Breathing Spaces is a book of environmental portraits, composed of photographs taken in the first decade of the twenty-first century, a few years after South Africa’s democracy. It explores how photographic images can move us, can unlock personal and shared memories, can prompt public debate, can unsettle us and challenge us to think about alternative environmental futures. The photographs in Breathing Spaces explore the relationship between people and three neighbourhoods located south of Durban harbour: Wentworth, Merebank and Lamontville.

Durban’s densely populated southern basin is well known as a flashpoint of pollution perpetrated by South African industries and transnational petrochemical corporations. It is also known for the conflict over plans for further, dirty economic growth.

Breathing Spaces: Environmental Portraits of Durban’s Industrial South presents portraits of people and living spaces taken by social documentary photographer Jenny Gordon. These are interleaved with reproductions of images from family albums and are variously accompanied by extracts from Marijke du Toit’s conversations with the people portrayed, their friends, family and neighbours. A selection of photographs taken by local residents who participated in photographic workshops and exhibitions, held in the particular neighbourhoods, are also included. As a composite portrait, this book presents long histories of personal, communal and familial places in South Durban. It explores the possibilities of photography through conversation, and conversation through photography. It is about the struggle to take personal breath against social and environmental injustice.

Historian Marijke du Toit is based in the Faculty of Arts at the University of the Western Cape, where she works as a specialist for teaching and learning in Higher Education. Before moving to UWC she was based at the History Department of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.

Photographer Jenny Gordon lectures photojournalism at the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, Grahamstown.

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Introducing Siyazama: Art, AIDS and Education edited by Kate Wells

SiyazamaThe Siyazama Project enables rural traditional craftswomen from KwaZulu-Natal to express their concerns about AIDS and all of its complexities through their beautiful beaded cloth dolls and beadwork.

The project and its producers communicate and spread awareness on HIV/AIDS through creative workshops, local and international exhibitions, museum collections, publications and on-going research activities. Project leader, Kate Wells, has compiled Siyazama: Art, AIDS and Education, an attractive, full-colour book to illustrate the main collaborators’ role in Siyazama to date.

‘The Siyazama Project effectively melds the arts, public health and the power of social networks into a culturally sensitive and strategically effective challenge to the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. This is what arts and health is all about.’ – Gary Christenson, M.D., University of Minnesota and President of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare.

About the editor

Kate Wells is an Associate Professor and Senior Graphic Design Lecturer at the Durban University of Technology.

Book details

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The African Art Centre Features the Art of William Zulu

Spring Will ComeLiyoze Line NangakithiDespite living a confining life restricted to a wheelchair, William Zulu’s art has taken him many places. And this might never have been the case were it not for Zulu’s encounter with a young occupational therapist who noticed Zulu’s drawing abilities and encouraged him to enroll at the famous Art and Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift.

Since then, Zulu has exhibited nationally and internationally, with his art displayed as far afield as the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MOMA) and at the international exhibition celebrating the unification of East and West Germany in 1991.

The African Art Centre features the artist and his prints, which are for sale from their website:

The African Art Centre: Focus on William Zulu

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A New Translation for Artist William Zulu’s Autobiography: Introducing Liyoze Line Nangakithi

William ZuluLiyoze Line NangakithiUKZN Press is delighted to announce the translation, into Zulu, of William Zulu’s biography, Spring Will Come.

Liyoze Line Nangakithi is a powerful and moving story about the life of writer and artist William Zulu. William was born during the time of the oppression of black people in South Africa, a time that caused much hardship among communities and families. He invites us to journey with him as he shows us the joy and the hardship of growing up in Emondlo, and the challenges that he faced and overcame there.

He shares with us his experiences as an art student at the famous Rorke’s Drift Art and Crafts Centre, where he learnt the skills that led to him becoming a world-renowned linocut artist, eventually invited to exhibit his work overseas.

William has lived for a long time with disability, ever since a problem that he experienced with his legs when he was a young man. This led to him being operated on in Baragwanath Hospital – an operation which went wrong, resulting in complete paralysis of the lower part of his body.

But this book about his life is not a book of mourning and hopelessness. Instead it is an invitation for us to see the power of God and the spirit of ubuntu in those that he met on his life’s journey.

Through the mind’s eye we are privileged to see and learn about the place William grew up in and experience the journey he has travelled. We are awed by the bravery! The love and hope he plants in us with this well-told story is the gift I believe every reader will take away with them.
– Gcina Mhlophe

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Image courtesy The Witness

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George Hallett’s Photographic Tribute to SA, Moving in Time, Now Available at a New Low Price

Moving in TimeOn 27th April 2004, South Africa’s new democracy was ten years old. It was a memorable decade, certainly one of the most fascinating in this country’s history. Six years on, and photographer George Hallett’s tribute to the seminal first decade, Moving in Time: Images of Life in a Democratic South Africa, is as relevant as ever.

UKZN Press is delighted to announce that this important book is now available in shops at a new price of R325, which is R100 off the original price.

South Africa’s transition to democracy set off a whirlwind of change. Social dynamics were unleashed, leading to rapid, exhilarating – and sometimes bewildering – transformation in every sphere of South African society. Moving in Time (Published with Deep South) presents a look back at this eventful period; to take stock of what has happened, celebrate their achievements and assess their shortcomings.

Although ultimately, a celebration of the achievements of a nation that has managed to come together after centuries of division and conflict, this photographic essay also portrays some of the problem areas the country has experienced. The photographs depict all the aspects of life in this country over the past decade and include achievements in areas such as the arts, education, science, sport, commerce and politics.

About the photographer

George Hallett is one of South Africa’s most highly respected photographers, with his work having been widely exhibited both in South Africa and many countries abroad. He has also made several documentary films. He has scoured the archives and approached photographers throughout the country for images that best reflect the spirit of the eventful decade.

Book details

  • Moving in Time: Images of Life in a Democratic South Africa by George Hallett, with a foreword by Mandla Langa
    EAN: 9780620320276
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