Moses Tladi Unearthed

  • Posted: Sep 15, 2015

Iziko South African National Gallery, 24 September 2015 until 14 March 2016

The first major South African exhibition of the work of artist, Moses Tladi, will open at the Iziko South African National Gallery on Heritage Day, 24 September 2015. The exhibition entitled Moses Tladi Unearthed, provides the visitor with an exceptional opportunity to view his work. Cited as the first black artist to have exhibited formally in South Africa, Moses Tladi (1903-1959) developed a reputation as a realist landscape painter.

During his lifetime, he was the first black artist to exhibit at the Iziko South African National Gallery, soon after the present building was opened, first in 1931 and then in 1933. More than half a century after his death in 1959, this exhibition brings back into public view the significance of his work.

The exhibition features approximately 30 Tladi paintings, sourced from institutional and personal collections in South Africa and overseas. An “in context” approach showcasing other artists who worked in a similar vein, or at the same time, are also included. This survey of the artistic career of the largely unknown Tladi,brings a greater understanding of and insight into Tladi, in his time and place.

Moses Tladi Unearthedis a testament to a man who pursued his love for painting despite the limited socio-economic conditions and hardships of his time, and re-introduces the public to this enigmatic painter.

“This exhibition endeavours to honour Tladi’s place in South African art history. It forms a part of Iziko Museums of South Africa’s ongoing journey of rediscovery, as we strive to be an institution that is aware of historical exclusions, particularly in South Africa’s apartheid years,” says Rooksana Omar, CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa.

A comprehensive book by Angela Read Lloyd, The Quest for Moses Tladi: The Artist in the Garden (Print Matters) will accompany the exhibition. The book is available for purchase at the Iziko South African National Gallery for the duration of the exhibition. 

Moses Tladi Unearthedhas been generously funded by Iziko Museums of South Africa and the Andrew Mellon Foundation through the Centre for Curating the Archive at UCT.

For media queries, contact Lee-Shay Collison on 021 481 3874 or email


Issued by: Lee-Shay Collison
Media Liaison Officer: Institutional Advancement, Iziko Museums of South Africa
Telephone: +27 (0) 21 481 3891                                  Facsimile: +27 (0) 21 461 9620
Cell: 073 585 9843                                                                             E-mail:

On behalf of: Office of the CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa

Notes to editor:

About Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko)

Iziko operates 11 national museums, the Planetarium, the Social History Centre and three collection‑specific libraries in Cape Town.  The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections that reflect our diverse African heritage.  Iziko is a public entity and non-profit organisation that brings together these museums under a single governance and leadership structure.  The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, (*excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium). Visit our webpage at, join our online community on Facebook ( or follow us on Twitter (@Iziko_Museums) for regular updates on events, news and new exhibitions.

About the Artist

Moses Tladi was born in 1903 in the remote Sekhukhuneland, located in the Limpopo Province (former Transvaal region). He was the son of a traditional healer who made a living by working creatively in iron, and a mother who was a gifted potter. Tladi spent his early childhood herding cattle in the striking hill-country around his birthplace. His parents converted to Christianity under the influence of the Berlin Missionary Society and he was educated at the Lobethal mission, at ga Phaahla in Limpopo. Tladi, like many young men of the time, went to Johannesburg in search of work. By the mid-1920s, he found employment as gardener to Herbert Read at Lokshoek in a fashionable suburb of Parktown.

After he started painting with leftover commercial house paint and a stick, Tladi's flowering talent as an artist was discovered and Read took him under his wing, providing him with artists’ materials.   Read also introduced Tladi to the collector and philanthropist Howard Pim, who was once a mayor of Johannesburg and played a leading role in the establishment of the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Both Read and Pim promoted Tladi at public exhibitions from 1929 onwards. Tladi served his country during the Second World War, but continued to paint until the tragic events of 1956 when he was forced to move out of his own home to Soweto due to the provisions of the Group Areas Act. He died at the age of 56 in 1959. 

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