South Africa has produced icons of the arts from an array of disciplines. Celebrated at home and abroad, these visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians and performers represent the country's diversity as well as its creative potential. They are all heroes of the arts.

Did you know?

Athol Fugard received an award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre at the 2011 Tony Awards.

With their blend of influences – ancient and modern, traditional and contemporary, ethnic and cosmopolitan – South Africa’s arts icons have excelled in a number of fields.

Often having triumphed over adversity, the success of South African musicians, visual artists, writers, dancers and other professionals in the performing arts continues to inspire the country on a daily basis.

As children growing up in South Africa, Gerard Sekoto and George Pemba had limited access to art materials. Pemba used shoe polish to draw his first sketches and Sekoto was introduced to colour crayons for the first time when he was in his teens. These challenges failed to hold back these two pioneers of black urban art, who rank highly among South Africa's heroes of the arts. Other icons in the field of visual art include William Kentridge, Irma Stern and David Goldblatt.

In the field of music, South Africa has nurtured the talents of groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, whose vocal harmonies earned them multiple Grammy awards. Artists such as Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela achieved international success, as did Johnny Clegg, Sipho Mabuse, Lucky Dube, Sibongile Khumalo and the Soweto String Quartet, among many others.

South African writers Nadine Gordimer and JM Coetzee both won the Nobel Prize for literature. Other famous South African writers include Herman Charles Bosman, Alan Paton, Andre Brink and Olive Schreiner.

Poets and playwrights like Athol Fugard and Mike van Graan have also achieved iconic status in the arts, as have actors John Kani and, South African-born Charlize Theron. She is the first South African to win an Oscar for a leading role (for the film Monster).

In the field of dance, choreographer and dancer Boyzi Cekwana has taken contemporary dance to new levels. Film director Zola Maseko was the first South African to win the Etalon de Yennega, Africa's leading prize for fiction film, with his biopic Drum.

Other South African icons of the arts include Venda potter Noria Mabasa, Esther Mahlangu, known for her work in support of traditional Ndebele wall painting, and Princess Magogo ka Dinuzulu. She is recognised for her role in preserving and developing traditional Zulu music and poetry.

Travel tips & Planning info

Best time to visit

If you're interested in South Africa's artistic icons, you'll enjoy the annual National Arts Festival that takes place in June and July in Grahamstown.

What will it cost

Tickets to shows, productions and performances by South Africa's artistic icons can cost between R200 and R600. Art works by visual artists will cost significantly more.

What's happening

South Africa has a vibrant art scene. Watch out for performances and productions by artistic icons like Hugh Masekela, Mike van Graan, Sibongile Khumalo, John Kani and William Kentridge at shows and art festivals around the country.

Best buys

Books, music and art works by South Africa's artistic icons are great investments.