Art and Politics

The arts have been an integral part in South Africa's fight for freedom. Artists, through their works in visual and performing arts, conveyed messages that transcended the accepted norms and conventional thinking, resulting in them being seen as catalysts between the masses and the fight for freedom.

The combination of arts and politics led to groundbreaking imagery and production which went beyond the criteria and prescriptions offered and regulated by the Nationalist government. The art produced by both black and white artists illustrated the harsh realities of Apartheid as a system of governance and became an inspiration of creativity where the artists use the subject matter to comment on social, economic and political inequalities.

The advent of democracy in South Africa changed the political landscape and ultimately the artists had to react to the new South African landscape and thus changed their perceptions of the new democratic South Africa, like the artwork by Progress Matubaku, Something for Growth. The image of Hector Petersen is internationally known and has been linked with the dramatic changes in the fight against oppression by the youth in the 1976 uprisings.

Matubaku uses this imagery to illustrate how uncertainties of the future were main worries for the citizens. In this image Matubaku has combined both the past and present images through using the Magubane photograph and the new South African flag to illustrate how reconciliation and unity are important for the country's prosperity.

In the South African context the impact of artists’ comments has led to new genres like township art, political art and resistance art which all make statements about socio-political conditions of the country beyond South African borders as seen in the examples of Theophile Steinlen’s Working on Scaffold and Demetrius Spirou’s Phropheticon.

Portrait artists drawing in the Lorna Ferguson room

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