The art of South Africa

Over the last two centuries, artists in South Africa have responded to European colonialism in different ways.

19th - 20th century

videos + essays

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Santu Mofokeng, <em>Train Churches</em>
Santu Mofokeng, Train Churches

Santu Mofokeng's Train Churches shows people preaching, praying, healing, dancing, and making music while commuting on train cars in South Africa.

Beaded collar (<em>ingqosha</em>), Xhosa artist, South Africa
Beaded collar (ingqosha), Xhosa artist, South Africa

A relatively humble example of Xhosa beadwork became a potent symbol of tradition as well as a statement of defiance in South Africa.

Married Woman’s Apron (<em>itjogolo</em> or <em>ijogolo</em>), Ndebele peoples
Married Woman’s Apron (itjogolo or ijogolo), Ndebele peoples

These decorated aprons were gifts from the groom’s family to his wife, and signified her new role in society.

<em>Thethana</em>, South Sotho artist
Thethana, South Sotho artist

Arts of adornment, like the thethana, have the amazing ability to function as signifiers of social belonging and individual status.

uKhahlamba Drakensberg rock paintings (San)
uKhahlamba Drakensberg rock paintings (San)

This spectacular site contains caves and rock-shelters with the largest, most concentrated group of paintings in sub-Saharan Africa.

William Kentridge, drawing from <em>Tide Table (Soho in Deck Chair)</em>
William Kentridge, drawing from Tide Table (Soho in Deck Chair)

Why watch the tides when you can read about it in the newspaper? Kentridge comments on social class in this drawing.

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