Have you ever witnessed an African sunrise? Have you ever walked across the dunes in the Karoo or visited an African tribe and experienced their way of life? Not many people have and not many people will have the opportunity to see these glorious sights in person, due to various reasons. However, it is possible to witness an African sunrise and see the dunes in the Karoo or learn about African tribes through South African art.
South African art has always told tales and South African tribes have always used art to express their emotions, history and any other important event that may have had a significant value. The types of art these artists use to express themselves may have evolved in some ways, but the way these stories are told have stayed relatively the same. It is only history’s course that may change the content of these little gems of Africa, but each one is unique in its own right and has a story with almost as much life as South Africa itself.
The types of art you can find in South Africa can be anything from conventional oil paintings on canvas to “wire cars” you can buy in the streets or at flea markets. South African artists offer a wide variety of art for everyone’s tastes and needs. The following are some of the more unconventional art-forms that is available in South Africa, where crafts and hobbies become a way of life:
Beading – One of South Africa’s most sought after souvenirs, beading is the colourful artwork that still holds the age-old traditions of many South African cultures. However beading is not simply beading in South Africa, there is a symbolic code in each piece that has significant meaning due to its colour and pattern for each culture.
Metalwork – The metalwork that comes out of South Africa is world-class art! It brings historical, artistic, mythological as well as symbolic meaning to those who own it. These metal sculptures cross a broad variety of subjects and meanings that’s not only relatable for South Africans, but also in a more worldly sense. Ranging from metallic African masks to wire key chains that resembles chameleons and other animals; it’s a skill that South African artists quickly developed into a beautiful art that’s been very difficult to recreate by artists from other countries.
Embroidery – The women of South African tribes have always enjoyed needlework and their needlework has become exceptional as far as quality is concerned. Depicting home-life, communities, memories, dreams and history, embroidery have started to take on an artistic form like never before. As of late, people have started to purchase these intricate pieces of needlework, framed them and hanged them against the walls of their homes, offices or wherever else they can be adored.
Other than the abovementioned art-forms, South African artists do dabble in traditional and more conventional art-forms too. Oil-, acrylic-, fabric- and water painting as well as sculpturing and pottery aren’t only European or American ways of expressing themselves, but South African artists have studied fine arts and experimented with them, only to come up with some of the best quality art the world has ever seen. Moving with the times, South African artists are also using digital photography and digitised images to create stimulating art.
With such a rich history and mythological basis to go on, the art compliments the country like never before. One should also realise that purchasing local art isn’t to be compared to property for rent (that you spend money but don’t have an asset at the end of the day), but that a work by established artists (e.g. Irma Stern, Kentridge) as well as work by developing talent is quickly becoming a sought after commodity.
If you are interested in the topic of South African art, there are many sources of information that could enrich your knowledge base. Whether you you prefer English or Afrikaans books, online stores like Takealot.com will definitely have something that will be of interest.