From 7 to 30 April, 2010, the Kalk Bay Modern had the pleasure of presenting one of their most exciting shows yet. A Tribute to Cecil Skotnes was opened by Tom Scully, the printer Skotnes worked with on a series entitled The Assassination of Shaka (1974) which is still on display at KBM.
Cecil Skotnes, who died on the 7th of April 2009, was one of South Africa’s most venerated artists and social activists. During the racist Apartheid regime when black people were barred from all universities and institutions, he acted as cultural officer at the influential Polly Street Art Centre of the 50’s, training and encouraging young black artists, some of whom became household names.
He also set up the Nyanga Art Centre in the 80's, and taught at the legendary Community Arts Project. He was awarded the Goodman Gallery Award in 2005 for a lifetime of service to South African community and art.
In his own words:
“My work is grounded in an African idiom - when I was a boy at school a friend in the church ran a Salvation Army school in Soweto, so I visited there often, and since then I have traversed the entire country. It's been a fortuitous trek, this journey.
'There are two elements here - a great depth of understanding of the art of southern Africa before the white man even put his foot in the country and secondly, my experience in teaching and working with a serious small group of township people who became professional artists.”
He often dealt with aspects of South African history that were neglected due to the Aparthed government. The Assassination of Shaka, based on a poem by Stephen Gray of the same title, is an example of his passion for the authentic South African narrative.
As pointed out by Sue Williamson in an ARTHROB biography on Cecil Skotnes, one does not need to look hard to see how deeply rooted in the atmosphere of Africa Cecil Skotnes’ work is – it is plain to see in his rich earth colours and stark intense forms.
To read the entire biography on the fascinating household name, click on the link below.
This show also contained several beautiful pieces from the Ardmore Ceramic Workshop which will be the subject of the next blog.