Friday 19 April 2013

Gerard Sekoto, 1913-1993 (South African artist, musician)

* Gerard Sekoto, "born at five in the morning" with the Sun rising in his chart, was without doubt one of South Africa's major painters of the twentieth century.

Gerard Sekoto (9 December 1913 - 20 March 1993), was a South African artist and musician. He is recognised as the pioneer of urban black art and social realism.He has had exhibitions in Paris, Stockholm, Venice, Washington, Senegal as well as in South Africa.

Sekoto was born on 9 December 1913 at the Lutheran Mission Station in Botshabelo near Middelburg, Eastern Transvaal (now known as Mpumalanga). As the son of a missionary, music was a part of his life, and he was introduced to the family harmonium at an early age.

On graduating as a teacher from the Diocesan Teachers Training College in Pietersburg he taught at a local school, Khaiso Secondary, for four years. During this time he entered an art competition (the May Esther Bedford) organised by the Fort Hare University, for which he was awarded second prize. George Pemba was awarded the first prize.

In 1938 at the age of 29 he left for Johannesburg to pursue a career as an artist. He lived with relatives in Gerty Street, Sophiatown. He held his first solo exhibition in 1939. In 1940 the Johannesburg Art Gallery purchased one of his pictures; it was to be the first picture painted by a black artist to enter a museum collection. In 1942 he moved to District Six in Cape Town where he lived with the Manuel family. In 1945 he moved to Eastwood, Pretoria.

In 1947 he left South Africa to live in Paris under self-imposed exile. The first years in Paris were hard, and Sekoto was employed as a pianist purely by chance at l’Echelle de Jacob (Jacob’s ladder), a trendy nightclub that had reopened for business after World War II. Here he played jazz and sang ‘Negro Spirituals’, popular French songs of the period and some Harry Belafonte. Music became the way that he could pay his living and art school expenses.

Between 1956 and 1960, several of Sekoto’s compositions were published by Les Editions Musicales. Sekoto played piano and sang on several records. He composed 29 songs, mostly excessively poignant, recalling the loneliness of exile, yet displaying the inordinate courage of someone battling to survive in a foreign cultural environment.

Sekoto's paintings became political in the 1970s due to apartheid in his home country. In 1989 the Johannesburg Art Gallery honoured him with a retrospective exhibition and the University of Witwatersrand with an honorary doctorate.

He died on 20 March 1993 at a retirement home outside Paris.

Read more from his Wikipedia biography.


One of South Africa's major painters of the twentieth century, Sekoto had a very creative and expressive chart: Sun rising; Moon in the 5th House at the apex of a T-square; and MC at 29 Leo.


BIRTH DATA: Jan Gerard Sekoto, 9 December 1913, 05:00 (5 a.m.) EET (-2), Botshabelo, Middelburg, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa (25s47, 29e28). ASC: 14 Sagittarius. RR: B (from biography). SOURCE: Sy Scholfield (c) quotes N. C. Manganyi, Gerard Sekoto: 'I Am an African': A Biography (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2004), p. 5: "A little more than two years later, on 9 December 1913, a second son was born at five in the morning on the day of a church synod. They named him Jan Gerard, but later he would come to be known by his second name, as well as by the nickname Senote, derived from the coincidence of his birth with that important event in the church year."

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