The exhibition will illuminate the rich heritage of the country, and will explore the seven key episodes of the nation's history, including the colonial period, apartheid, the 'rainbow nation' and modern South Africa, telling the story through art. The collection will showcase some of the British Museum's own artefacts, as well as hosting significant loans.
A standout piece is a 2 metre wide textile piece, 'The Creation of the Sun' (2015) from the Bethesda Arts Centre which has been produced by descendants of South Africa's original dwellers, inspired by ages-old stories of their myths of creation, and displaying these in a contemporary manner. Contemporary works on loan include a self-portrait by Lionel Davis of the anti-apartheid movement, and a 3D installation by Mary Sibande.
One of the most exciting loans is the gold treasures of Mapungubwe, acting capital of the first kingdom from AD 1220 to 1290, which take the shape of gold figures depicting animals of high status and power. The golden rhino is now the symbol of the Order of Mapungubwe, the highest honour in South Africa which was first presented to Nelson Mandela in 2002. The objects illuminate shifts in society towards more hierarchical styles of rule, and they are crucial to understanding the complexities of societies before the European discovery.
Contemporary arts serve to highlight the importance of more historic pieces. One such example will be 'Potent Fields' (2002) by Karel Nel, which in its depiction of red and white ochre, collected from Mandela's ancestral lands, shines a light on the divide of the apartheid while also marking the discovery in 2002 of the cross-hatched ochre at Blombos Cave in the Western Cape. The dating of this 75,000 year old find put southern Africa ahead of Europe as one of the earliest sites of artistic thought.
This exhibition is sure to challenge preconceptions about the colonial and apartheid eras, and will bring to life narratives which could only be illuminated through the use of objects from South Africa's rich and diverse past. It's a must see.
The exhibition is sponsored by Betsy and Jack Ryan and the logistics partner is IAG Cargo.
|What||South Africa: the art of a nation, British Museum|
|Where||British Museum, Great Russell St, London, WC1B 3DG | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Holborn (underground)|
27 Oct 16 – 26 Feb 17, 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM
|Website||Click here to book via the British Museum|