October 09, 2017 3 min read

Township art has long been an integral part of South Africa’s long struggle for freedom and was, in effect, shaped and moulded by the politics of social change.  

A vibrant depiction of oppressive realities

Aspirant black artists chose to depict their oppressive realities in robust, colourful mixed media representations which  were, and still are, completely unique to the region.

Although the fascist Apartheid regime has been relegated, permanently, to the annals of history, township art continues to thrive and evolve, depicting the challenging social realism of a life of poverty in a diverse array of media.

Gerard Sekoto and George Pemba

It is this inimitable expression of township life  which continues to drive the genre into the comfortable and wealthy realm of international  art collectors, so much so that works by great and celebrated Township artists  including Gerard  Sekoto and George Pemba have reached extraordinary high prices at auction in recent times.

Sekoto, in particular, is often viewed as the  catalyst which propelled South  African art onto the crest of international demand. His work, Wash Day, was recently auctioned for $140 000 and a Self Portrait sold for an astonishing $246 900! 

The Road Ball Game - Frank Ross 


An evolution of media

Although the medium of expression has changed over  the years - emerging artists are now more able to afford the traditional media of  oils, watercolours and canvasses - the subject matter, rich colours and raw  expressionism have remained the same and it is a genre that is becoming more  and more collectable all over the world.

Even though Pemba and Sekoto continue to dominate  the genre long after their deaths, successful emerging Township artists are  being recognised for their contribution to the art form including Michael Maapola, who uses a combination of collage and air brush  techniques and Louis  Khela Maqhubela, who largely depicts his subject matter in mosaic form.

An interesting anomaly is that Township art is no  longer the exclusive domain of black artists; some of the thriving Township  artists are in fact of European descent and although their realities are not  necessarily driven by hardship, their poignant depiction of township life is  often truly remarkable.

Contemporary Township artists

There is a  host of contemporary artists dedicated to the purest form of Township art and  their works are displayed online and by our South African galleries.

Francis  Sibanda, Peter Sibeko, Frank  Ross and Lazarus Ramontseng have all adhered faithfully to the use of mixed  media in their works whereas Mauro Chiarla portrays his images in oils. Katherine Ambrose explores the genre with acrylics and Wallace Hulley captures the essence of 'shack land’ in watercolour.

Early Evening - Katherine Ambrose


Support Township art

If this unique genre, which constantly prods the consciousness of its viewers, is to survive and flourish, it demands the support of art aficionados the world over. The good news is that discerning art collectors who have invested in Township art are not only enriched by the  experience of vibrancy and colour but are safe in the knowledge that their purchase has gone a long way in improving the lives of those previously less fortunate.

Township art buying tips

Browse our collections of township art; visit one of our South African art galleries in person, or feel free to visit us online to order and have your chosen artwork delivered to your home or office - worldwide. Then join the legion of art lovers who have supported this politically important yet profoundly attractive art genre.

Mark Wright
Mark Wright

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