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.