Creating the Authentic? Art Teaching in South Africa as Transcultural Phenomenon


  • Melanie Klein Research Fellow, Freie Universitaet, Berlin, Germany



Art education, art school, workshop, South Africa, authenticity, originality, transculturality


The question about what art and craft from Black individuals in South Africa should look like as well as how and for what purposes it could be created was of prominent importance within the contact zone of educational institutions from the 1930s onwards. Art teachers of mostly European origin established provisional art educational venues for African students first, within the curricula of mission schools and then as workshops and art schools in their own right. They transferred modernistic concepts from Europe into the South African context, yet were also confronted with divergent expectations of their students and the overarching policy of Bantu Education that was launched in 1953.

A closer look at selected case studies reveals complex and ambivalent theoretical approaches that were negotiated and discussed in the seemingly autonomous context of art schools and workshops. The teachers’ attitudes seemed to oscillate between the search for an ‘authentic’ African idiom and the claim to partake in global archives or in the making of an art history that was imagined as universally applicable. Art educational institutions perceived as transcultural contact zones exemplify a genesis of modern art from South Africa that was formed by mutually influencing perspectives apart from the restrictions for and the re-tribalisation of Black people imposed by the apartheid regime.


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Theme: Concurrences: Culture Bound and Unbound