Western contact tainted the African artist?!
Uhuru Phalafala plays the Devil’s advocate in a highly contested territory of Western vs Afrikan arts, from both the artist, exhibitor, curator and buyer’s perspective
Sidney Kumalo and Esrom Legae were both products of the Polly Street Recreation Centre’s art workshops run by Cecil Skotnes in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Kumalo and, briefly, Legae were included in the Amadlozi group put together by Egon Guenther in the 1960’s. This essay strives to show how these two artists’s Africanness was, to a certain extent, a by-product of the modernism encouraged by their teachers and dealers. I will do this by exploring how these artists were influenced by their teacher, Skotnes, to produce art that was considered to ‘embody the spirit of Africa’, and by their dealer, Guenther, to produce art that was ‘authentically African’ for the international Western market. I will start by giving a brief history of
“Black art exists almost exclusively by virtue of white liberals’ benign interest. Teachers are white, art administrators are white, gallery directors are white, and so are the critics and buyers” (Seven Stories).
Using this assertion as a point of departure, I will now look at Sidney Kumalo and Esrom Legae’s works and assess how their training and subsequent works were a by-product of the modernism encouraged by their teachers and dealers.