Gerard Sekoto

  • Born 1913 in Botshabelo, Eastern Transvaal
  • Died 1993 in Nogent-sur-Marne, France

Gerard Sekoto is considered one of the most important figures in the development of South African contemporary art. A self-taught artist and musician, he gave up his teaching career and moved to Sophiatown in 1938 to become a full-time professional artist. His paintings and drawings are unobstructed records of the people, streets, and scenes he encountered in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Pretoria. From 1939 onward, he participated in group exhibitions and annual exhibitions of the South African Academy. In 1940 his painting Yellow Houses: A Street in Sophiatown became the first work of a black artist to be purchased by the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Once he became one of South Africa’s leading artists, two financially successful solo exhibitions in Pretoria galleries enabled his self-imposed exile to Paris in 1947. Although he managed to establish himself as a painter and was regularly represented in Parisian galleries and international exhibitions, Sekoto never lost ties to his homeland. As a reaction to conflict in his native country during the 1960s, his works became more political. In 1989 a retrospective of his work was held at the Johannesburg Art Gallery and he received an honorary doctorate from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.