Monographs on African Artists an Annotated Bibliography
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Sekoto, Gerard, 1913-1993

Lindop, Barbara. Gerard Sekoto / edited by Mona de Beer. Randburg: Dictum, 1988. xv, [3], 294pp. illus., bibliog. ND1096.S46L74 1988 AFA. OCLC 20732265.

This catalog is an elegant tribute to Gerard Sekoto (in 1988 still living in long exile in Paris), motivated by a desire "to return Gerard Sekoto's paintings to the people of South Africa." It grew out of a correspondence between Lindop and Sekoto from 1986 to 1988 part of which is reprinted here; in it Sekoto tells his own story. Although not a catalogue raisonné, Lindop tried to gather and document paintings from public and private collections both inside and outside of South Africa, covering his entire artistic career, including early works before his permanent departure in 1947 and his subsequent œuvre. Presented in faithful color reproductions, the paintings are both poignant and powerful. Although arranged by chronological period, it was not possible to date individual paintings. The catalog, produced in a deluxe limited edition of fifty copies and a regular edition, quickly went out of print and is now a collector's item.

Reviewed by Merle Huntley in De arte (Pretoria) no. 39, April 1989, pages 78-82; by Anitra Nettleton in South African journal of cultural and art history (Pretoria) 3 (3) July 1989, pages 287-290

Lindop, Barbara. Sekoto: the art of Gerard Sekoto. London: Pavilion, 1995. 64pp. illus. (pt. color), portraits. ND1096.S46L74s 1995 AFA. OCLC 32922527.

Gerard Sekoto chose not to return to South Africa at the end of his life because he felt he would be a victim -- a victim of his newly found, long overdue success. He knew he would be hounded by the curious and could not accomplish anything useful after so long an absence. In a poignant postscript to this book, Sekoto, in a letter to Barbara Lindop, spells out the reasons for his decision.

Sekoto's letters to Barbara Lindop are the seam running through this text. This is a new condensed edition of the now out-of-print 1988 book (see above), which fills in the last years of his life. One of the most compelling features are the brief commentaries on the paintings in Sekoto's own voice. On his famous "Song of the Pick" painting (1946-1947) he writes: "The warden, with his hands in his pockets while smoking his pipe, thinking himself the power, yet being overpowered by the `Song of the pick' with strong rhythm which he can clearly hear so that it diminishes his thin legs into nothingness." (page 49). Some of the comments are not on specific paintings, but are general observations on time and place.

Reviewed by Donna Seaman in Booklist (Chicago) 92 (6) November 15, 1995, page 527.

Manganyi, N. Chabani. A black man called Sekoto. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1996. xiv, 201pp. illus., bibl. refs. (pp. 176-195). ND1096.S45M36 1996X AFA. OCLC 36227481.

This is a clinical biography of Gerard Sekoto by fellow South African, who is a psychologist by profession, whose initial interest was studying "prominent black South Africans who were neglected." Manganyi interviewed Sekoto in Paris and London in several long sessions during the period 1984 to 1986. These interviews, supplemented by letters and other material, form the basis of the biography. It is worth noting that this book project was begun before Barbara Lindop embarked on her rescue mission of Sekoto's career and critical reputation. Delays in publication of Manganyi's book have meant that Sekoto's rediscovery in South Africa and now his death have all transpired.

As a psychobiography, the story of Sekoto is told chronologically and developmentally. The focus has been to see how the man and the artist developed as an adult psychologically, emotionally, and professionally. Each chapter concludes with "interpretative summaries" -- which are not as bad as that sounds -- drawing together the threads of the life and suggesting "possible meanings and significance of various events and situations." Manganyi's text reads more smoothly than this clinical approach would suggest, and it certainly steers clear of "psycho-babble." It enables the reader to better understand what motivated Sekoto and how painting was absolutely central to his life.

Manganyi, N. Chabani. Gerard Sekoto: “I am an African” : a biography. Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2004. xi, 244pp. illus (pt. color), bibliog. (pp. 229-235). ND1096.S45M37 2004 AFA. OCLC 60504570.

This is a new version of the biography of Gerard Sekoto originally published in 1996 with the title A black man called Sekoto (see preceding entry). Not only is the text rewritten, but new archival material (Sekoto’s suitcase full of private documents) and more interviews are incorporated. This is a biography, not an art historical text. It is about the man, more than his art, but it brings understanding to his œuvre. Sekoto, of course, holds a unique place in the history of 20th century South Africa art, even though he lived in exile for most of his adult life. Manganyi spent many hours with Sekoto in preparing the first biography, and these encounters and exchanges are now part of the story. The critical role of Barbara Lindop in bringing overdue recognition to Sekoto in his later years and after his death, overseeing the untidy affairs of his estate, is also now part of the Sekoto story.

Reviewed by Julie L. McGee in African arts (Los Angeles) 39 (3) autumn 2006, pages 10, 90-91, 96; by Wilhelm van Rensburg in De arte (Pretoria) 72, 2005, pages 90-91; by Michael Chapman in Art South Africa (Cape Town) 4 (2) summer 2005, pages 86-87; by Janet Stanley in African book publishing record (Munich) 33 (3) 2007, page 210.

Sekoto, Gerard, 1913-1993. Exiles: drawings by Gerard Sekoto / Barbara Lindop, Christine Eyene. Johannesburg, South Africa: Afronova, 2008. [96] pp. illus. (chiefly color), portraits, bibl. refs. NC368.6.S6 S452 2008 AFA. OCLC 265000206.

Sekoto’s drawings in exile focused on Paris, his home for 46 years, and Senegal, his only trip back to the African continent. These drawings are very impressionistic, many hastily sketched on scraps of paper. The drawings in this catalog belong to a larger archive of his letters, photos, and other documents, known as the Spier Collection They are now repatriated to South Africa. Also included in this catalog are vintage photographs of Sekoto at the easel, in the jazz club, at the piano. Short essays by Barbara Lindop and Christine Eyene provide context. Despite all those years in Paris, Sekoto never achieved recognition in French art circles or art history.

Sekoto, Gerard. Gerard Sekoto: my life and work / edited by Ivan Vladislavic. Kensington, South Africa: ViVa Books, 1995. 117pp. illus., plates. N7396.S46A4 1995 AFA. OCLC 36371583.

This is the story of South African painter Gerard Sekoto (1913-1993) adapted for young readers (middle school and above). It is also a book about how to look at art. The biographical chapters are based on letters that Sekoto wrote to Barbara Lindop toward the end of his life from his home in France. His paintings artfully tell part of his story from a rural mission station to Sophiatown to District Six and Eastwood to Paris. They not only illustrate the text but also are captioned to heighten awareness of what they reveal about a particular phase of his life. Some of Sekoto's richest paintings come from this early period once he set his course on art.

In 1947 Sekoto left South Africa never to return. He settled in Paris and studied art for a time at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, but life was a struggle for an impoverished artist who spoke little French. Sekoto was also a talented musician (piano and guitar) and was able to get gigs in nightclubs, which is how he survived. But he suffered a breakdown and spent time in a mental hospital, where ironically he did some poignant charcoal drawings.

Sekoto met Léopold Senghor and later went to Sénégal for the 1966 festival and stayed to travel and sketch. The last decades of his life were hard ones with hospital stays, battles with alcoholism, and futile attempts to keep the soul of his work alive. His later paintings never sustained the vibrancy and vitality of his South African ones, but undoubtedly accurately mirrored his life and surroundings. Fame came at the end of his life from around 1988 until his death in 1993, during which time he was reclaimed by South Africa.

Reviewed by Gerard Hagg in De arte (Pretoria) 54, September 1996, pages 58-60.

Spiro, Lesley. Gerard Sekoto: unsevered ties; [exhibition, Johannesburg Art Gallery, November 1, 1989-February 2, 1990]. Johannesburg: Johannesburg Art Gallery, 1989. 99pp. illus. (color), bibliog. ND1096.S46S75 1989 AFA. OCLC 20845762.

Sekoto was given a long overdue retrospective exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 1989. An exile in Paris for four decades has made Sekoto something of a "mythical figure" in South Africa, but his pioneering role in modern South African art is undeniable.

Piecing together the life of Sekoto from primary sources and interviews, Lesley Spiro builds the foundation of Sekoto's biography from his birth in 1913 in the Transvaal. Perhaps his most creative, productive and ultimately influential years were those spent in Sophiatown and elsewhere in Johannesburg and later Cape Town areas in the late 1930s and 1940s. His paintings from this period provide a window on township life, as he experimented in oils, color, shadow and composition; he also began exhibiting at this time. In 1947 he left for Paris. During his long Paris stay, he continued to draw upon South African subjects and rework earlier themes. This catalog is a worthy testimony and tribute to the renewed interest in Sekoto coming as it does toward the end of his life. There were 135 works in the exhibition. Well illustrated; thorough bibliography.

E'skia Mphahlele delivered the opening address at the 1989 Sekoto retrospective exhibition in Johannesburg. His tribute to the trials and achievements of Sekoto are reprinted in full: "Sekoto's story is a sheer blistering effort to survive," Sowetan (Soweto) November 6, 1989, page 4.

Exhibition reviewed by Anitra Nettleton, "From `step-child' to 'father'" South African journal of art and architectural history (Pretoria) 1 (2): 74-75, May 1990; by Marion Arnold in De arte (Pretoria) 41: 66-68, April 1990; in New Nation (Johannesburg) November 3-9, 1989, page 16; "Towering exhibitions," Sowetan (Soweto) November 27, 1989; by Olga Horowitz, "Missing: the artist himself," Star (Johannesburg) November 6, 1989; "Gerard Sekoto works on show in Jo'burg," Star tonight (Johannesburg) October 30, 1989. See also Andrew Steele, "Eminent Sekoto unlikely to return," Sowetan (Soweto) November 7, 1989, who reports that despite belated acclaim of his work in his own country, the seventy-five-year-old Sekoto, South Africa's leading black painter, refuses to come home from forty-two years of self-imposed exile.