Indigenous aesthetics and narratives in the works of Black South African artists in local art museums.
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This dissertation is an amalgam of reformulated essays on artists who had connections with 20-21st century KwaZulu-Natal: They appeared in exhibition catalogues that accompanied the exhibitions; The Azaria Mbatha Retrospective, 1998, The Trevor Makhoba Memorial, 2005 and Cyprian Mpho Shilakoe Revisited, 2006. Chapter 1, the introduction; outlines the chapters, gives the theoretical and broader theoretical framework, history of the region and art therein, literature survey and methodology. Central to the theoretical framework is an attempt to meld the original essays into a coherent whole; by expanding the interpretation of indigenous cultural world-view to include the concept of orality versus literate cultures. Even in the transformation to literacy with westernization and Christianity the African oral mind-set is still operative; thus for instance the early Zulu writers like R.R.R. Dhlomo rendered the Zulu kings‘ oral praise-poems into written form and these became set-works for Zulu schools up until the 1994 new dispensation. Also dealt with are related issues of what therefore constitutes 'Africanness‘ and debates whether it is but the invention of the west in need of the 'Other‘ (something arguably pertinent to the art-collector‘s reasons for collecting), or if there is that own to the African style, like the oral style, which can be termed a 'legitimate Africanness‘ if one will. Further, how this style then exhibits itself in the visual arts as a 'preferred form‘ in terms of medium, colour, patterning and favored technique which best conspire to express these qualities. Chapter 2 (essay 1) and chapter 3 (essay 2), carry forward the assumptions made in the introduction. In modern times the oral genre has developed into an exciting style; namely the development of urban, often migrant musical forms, like isicathimiya, that challenge politics, social-wrongs, racism and taboos. It is argued that an artist like Trevor Makhoba can be considered a social commentator and 'master of the oral genre‘ in that he rendered this style into visual form. Certain of Makhoba‘s works depicting white females and black males are analyzed in this light and it is suggested that the oral genre also draws upon both stereotypical and universal archetypal imagery. Chapter 3 (essay 2) considers Azaria Mbatha‘s use of the older oral story-telling mode, rendered in linocut medium as an echo of earlier indigenous wooden 'pokerwork‘ panels, to transmit a political message in line with concepts of African Christianity, itself a syncretism of the Christian message with African world-view. This allegory was needed in a time where the Nationalist Government would have made open insurrection impossible. Chapter 4 (essay 3) concerns ex-Rorke‘s Drift art-student Cyprian Shilakoe. I analyze his aquatints in the light of his own Sotho cultural ideas on contagion and the ancestors for deeper meaning. The fact of culture change is accepted and mention is made of the artist‘s friend and fellow student, Dan Rakgoathe‘s melding of western esoteric mysticism, like Rosicrucianism, into African thinking and how far this impacted on the more traditional Shilakoe‘s works. The essays are followed by Chapter 5, the conclusion, which serves to come to some resolution. This is then followed by the bibliography.