Flying the Flag for South African Art

  • Posted: Nov 25, 2013

Following a highly successful South Africa-France Season in 2012, relations with France is once again a key focus. A Portrait of South Africa – George Hallett, Peter Clarke & Gerard Sekotois an exhibition of photographs, paintings and works on paper by these three prominent South African artists. Curated by the Iziko South African National Gallery, this exhibition is currently on view at the Cité internationale des arts in Paris.

South Africa has had a long and firmly entrenched historical connection with France. Against the backdrop of this multi-faceted association, the South Africa–France Season 2013 is the perfect opportunity for Iziko Museums of South Africa to showcase works from the Iziko South African National Gallery’s collection at the Cité internationale des arts, Paris.

A Portrait of South Africa: George Hallett, Peter Clarke & Gerard Sekotois a pioneering initiative to bring international audiences to the work of three eminent artists, who used art as an expression of resistance and as a record of the turbulent times in South Africa’s history. The works were drawn from public, corporate and private collections around South Africa and provides insight into the ways these artists view the country of their birth. Particularly areas such as Sophiatown, Eastwood, District Six, and Simon’s Town – all vibrant and cosmopolitan areas destroyed by the Group Areas Act - are featured in these artists’ work. Although their work is very different, all three were acquainted with one another and all, at some point, met one another in France.

We welcome the opportunity to showcase a small selection of these South African artists’ work. This exhibition provides a significant glimpse into ‘Black’ life during and after the apartheid years, as seen from an ‘insider’s’ perspective and told in a most poetic manner. Their works provide social and political commentaries that are fragments of untold South African stories revealing important aspects of a broader South African narrative, which must still be further explored, both within and beyond our borders. We feel very privileged to be able to offer visitors this glimpse.

Iziko Museums of South Africa is one of the oldest museums on the African continent with rich collections representing our diverse artistic, social and natural heritage. We strive to promote creative thinking, scholarship, learning, innovation and knowledge exchange. In keeping with our country’s transformation imperatives, we also seek new ways of thinking about heritage and culture and re-imagining the role of our museums in the 21st century. As we continue to reflect on our diversity as a South African nation, museums like Iziko have a central role to play in weaving a unique South African story. We are proud to be part of a conversation between nations that showcases just a few of these stories – some of which are difficult to unpack and share. However, I believe our artists and curators have succeeded in providing a vista of our country’s painful pastthrough this show, which seeks to increase our understanding of these complex times. On the eve of our nation’s 20 years of democracy celebrations, we are honoured to be able to share the artistic heritage of our nation with South Africans and the global community alike.

The unqualified support from the Cité internationale des arts has made this exhibition in Paris a reality. Our thanks must also go to the public, corporate and private lenders who have so readily loaned important works. Without their generosity, this exhibition would have been all the poorer.

We have worked closely with our fellow national Department of Arts and Culture agency, the National Arts Council (NAC) in Johannesburg, which generously made funds available for the exhibition and provided technical support. The French Institute in Paris must be separately thanked for driving the project, and for going beyond the call of duty. We worked with both organizations on the French Season in South Africa in 2012. The King’s Map: François le Vaillant in Southern Africa 1781–1784 and the Rendez-vous 12 exhibitions took place to great acclaim and tremendous interest at the Iziko South African Museum and Iziko South African National Gallery respectively. These exchanges in art and culture are most valuable in creating a shared understanding between nations.

The exhibition closes on 27 November 2013. It has been made possible through generous funding provided by the Department of Arts and Culture through the National Arts Council, as well as the Institut francais in Paris.I would like to express my appreciation to the artists and their representatives, curators and all contributors to this project for making it a success.

Rooksana Omar

CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa

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