Thursday, March 16, 2017
Gerard Sekoto (1913 –1993), was a South African artist and musician. He is recognised as the pioneer of urban black art and social realism.
His art skills emerged in his teenage years, when he attended the Diocesan Teachers Training College in Pietersburg.
In 1938 at the age of 25 he left for Johannesburg to pursue a career as an artist.
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.
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.
In 1966 he visited Senegal for a year.
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.