Gamakhulu Diniso and the Busang Effect: Arts and politics in the Vaal Triangle

by Nkululeko Khumalo


The 1980s in South Africa are remembered for their heightened political turmoil. This was a turning point, as the apartheid government began to weaken for a number of reasons, including increased pressure from the arts sector. This could be seen in the activities of the United Democratic Front (UDF), and other anti-apartheid cultural work in the form of festivals, conferences and exhibitions. [1] It was the decade of art’s increasing use as a ‘political tool’, instrumentalising the slogan, “culture as a weapon of the struggle”. [2]

Read More

­­Participatory Pedagogies: The African Institute of Art (AIA)

by Steven Sack

Author’s note: This is a personal account of the establishment of the African Institute of Art. As a lecturer at the time in the Art History and Fine Art Department at the University of South Africa (UNISA) from 1984, I spent time in the early years of the AIA as the first director and later a board member. This article is an attempt to describe the conditions that enabled the AIA to develop, thrive, and ultimately collapse. 

Read More

African Art Centre: Against all odds

by Anthea Martin

Download this essay as a PDF

Over the last sixty years the African Art Centre (AAC) in Durban has survived against all odds.  It was initiated during the darkest days of apartheid South Africa, when lack of educational and artistic opportunities threatened to keep the talents of black artists out of sight. Despite many obstacles, the AAC persevered from the 1960s through to the 1990s and became the hub of many artistic initiatives in KwaZulu-Natal, supporting and promoting black artists who were deliberately disadvantaged by apartheid legislation. Despite the obstructive constraints, a climate of optimism, expectation and excitement prevailed in the world of African art in the province. 

Read More

The Alexandra Arts Centre: Interviews with Bongiwe Dhlomo-Mautloa, Stephen Maqashela and Gabriel Masike.

by Sipho Gwala 

I grew up in Alexandra Township, and all my life have had to leave the township in order to learn visual arts, which is why I am so interested in the history of the Alexandra Arts Centre (AAC). As artists and organisers now, getting more insight into the AAC and its cultural work histories is important, as many of the people who knew the centre are passing away, and there is little documentation. Here, I interview Bongiwe Dhlomo-Mautloa, Stephen Maqashela, and Gabriel Masike, who were all directly linked to the centre, either as students or staff members.

Read More

Vakalisa Arts Associates, 1982 – 1992: Reflections

by Keith Adams

South Africa has undergone many political, social and economic changes since the arrival of the colonists on its shores in the early 17th century. Both British and white Afrikaner minority rule effectively dispossessed the local black majority of land, resources, and basic human rights.

Read More

The Imvaba Arts Collective: A brief history of its activities and significance (1)

By Eben Lochner

As political conditions were changing following the unbanning of political prisoners on 2 Feb 1990 there was a sense among activists that the conditions and goals of their work would shift. Already, activist and Judge Albie Sachs made an infamous call in 1989 to ban the use of art as a weapon of struggle. This drew responses from various cultural activists that challenged the legitimacy of his assessment of the state of art in South Africa as well as his suggestion for moving forward. (2) Inherent in Sachs’ critique was the idea that artwork representing the political struggle was somehow not appropriate for a new democracy. This was due to a shallow agit-prop visual culture which relied on re-using the same slogans for legitimacy and disregarded aesthetic quality. Examining the history of the Imvaba arts collective in Port Elizabeth gives us insight into the productive role played by artists in visually articulating vision for a new South Africa. In this article I will show that Imvaba’s approach to art was not about simple sloganeering, but the promotion of a value system that was believed to be vital to a non-racial South Africa.

Read More

‘Ownership’ of the Community Arts Project (CAP), 1976-1997

Jacqueline Nolte, 18 February 2011

This essay was written in 1997 for a publication that was planned to commemorate 21 years of the Community Arts Project. Since none of the publishers approached thought that there was a market for a book on CAP, this essay is published here for the first time.

Read More