A Portrait of South Africa: George Hallett, Peter Clarke & Gerard Sekoto

  • Posted: Oct 30, 2013

The South African Season in France introduces “A Portrait of South Africa – George Hallett, Peter Clarke and Gerard Sekoto”
October 2013

The South African Season in France will see over 1,000 artists, cultural heritage practitioners, academics, children and sportsmen from South Africa travel to France to take part in a multi-faceted collaboration between the two countries. The aim of the Season is to strengthen people-to-people contact between France and South Africa.

As part of the reciprocal cultural Season the Iziko Museums of South Africa, in association with the South Africa – France Seasons 2012 & 2013, is very proud to present an exhibition of work by three prominent artists. A Portrait of South Africa: George Hallet, Peter Clarke & Gerard Sekoto showcases a small, but choice selection of works by these three prominent South African artists. Iziko Museums of South Africa is honoured to share the artistic heritage of our nation with a global community. The exhibition opens at the Cité internationale des arts in Paris on 29 October 2013.

The exhibition, curated by the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, comprises of photographs by George Hallett and paintings and drawings by Peter Clarke and Gerard Sekoto. A Portrait of South Africa provides compelling insight into the ways these artists viewed the country of their birth. 

Influenced by different styles, specific to their visual communication, and using different mediums, these three artists share a common conviction – the worth of human values, expressed through family and community. Views were often challenged by oppressive totalitarianism, but also strengthened through achievement, despite seemingly intolerable odds.  These creative intellectuals, leaders and artists knew one another, and at some point, lived in France and reconnected.

The selection of photographs by George Hallett focuses on his interpretations of South Africa and South Africans. Poignant depictions of District Six, before it was razed to the ground, as well as an important archive of images of South Africans in exile, illustrate life during the apartheid era. Also included are photographs documenting more contemporary history – post-1990 – South Africa's first democratic elections and the proceedings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

These photos document an important backdrop to South Africa and the context for the work of the other two artists. The multi-talented artist, poet, graphic designer and craftsperson, Peter Clarke is a Renaissance man with wide-ranging interests.  He has produced particularly vivid images of life under apartheid for those people who were not classified ‘white’. His images express desolation and hardship, but at the same time the indomitable courage of those most directly affected by apartheid.

Gerard Sekoto, an artist iconic to South Africans, lived in Paris from 1947 until his death in 1993. Included in this exhibition are classic examples of his sensitive and vibrant depictions of township life, filled with warmth and colour, executed during the periods he spent in District Six in Cape Town, Sophiatown in Johannesburg, and Eastwood in Pretoria. There is also a choice selection of works from his Paris studio, a major portion of which was presented to the Iziko South African National Gallery after his death.

Bongani Tembe, Commissioner-General of the South African Season in France says, “’A Portrait of South Africa’ is an integral part of the Season and we are honoured to introduce these significant works to the people of France. As these rich and diverse events are important to the Season, we thought it essential to include this historic exhibition that pays tribute to Gerard Sekoto, and honours the works of photographers George Hallett and Peter Clarke. All these artists have in their own ways contributed to the struggle for freedom and a democratic society in South Africa.”

The works in A Portrait of South Africa are drawn from the collections of the Iziko South African National Gallery, as well as public, corporate and private collections. The exhibition has been made possible through generous funding provided by the South African Department of Arts and Culture through the National Arts Council and the Institut Francais in Paris.

The exhibition closes on 27 November 2013.

The Season will include 250 dance and theatre performances, 100 musical concerts, 50 films, 40 residencies, 35 workshops, 30 exhibitions, and 150 South African wines will be available for the French to taste.

For more information see: http://www.france-southafrica.com or @nacsouthafrica https://www.facebook.com/nacsouthafrica

Riason Naidoo (Director: Art Collections Department, Iziko Museums of South Africa), for Peter Clarke.
Andrea Lewis (Curator of Prints and Drawings, Art Collections Department, Iziko Museums of South Africa), for Gerard Sekoto.
Pam Warne (Curator of Photography and New Media, Art Collections Department, Iziko Museums of South Africa) and Joe Dolby (former Curator of Prints and Drawings,  Art Collections Department, Iziko Museums of South Africa) for George Hallett.


Editors Notes:
South African Season in France
South Africa is the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to participate in the reciprocal Seasons, which aims to give the people of both countries a better understanding of each other’s Arts, Culture and Heritage.

This year, between May and December 2013, the French public will be treated to a wide range of over 150 different projects, performances and initiatives across France. Cultural events will be combined with an array of events in other fields: innovation, science and technology, higher education, business, tourism, sport and languages.

The Seasons is in line with the Department of Arts and Culture’s Mzansi Golden Economy strategy, which aims to raise the profile of the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector within the country and abroad, in an effort to create jobs, open up new markets and build sustainable livelihoods for those in the creative industries.

The South African Season in France comes ahead of preparations for the celebration of South Africa’s 20th Anniversary of freedom and democracy.

Iziko Museums
Iziko Museums of South Africa (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 http://www.iziko.org.za, join our online community on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/IzikoMuseums) or follow us on Twitter (@Iziko_Museums) for regular updates on events, news and new exhibitions.


  •  National Aids Awareness Day: 1 December
  • Emancipation Day: 1 December
  • Day of Reconciliation: 16 December
  • Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium, free only on International  Museum Day and Heritage Day.

Cité internationale des arts 
18 Rue de l'Hôtel de ville
75004 Paris
+33 1 42 78 71 72

Distributed by:
The South African Season in France
Beverley Bradley | beverley.bradley@mccann.com | 011 235 4635

Fuller biographical information on the artists represented on this exhibition is obtainable on request. Additional press images may be obtained through contacts indicated above.

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