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FFrom the rock art of the San to the most recent contemporary museum in Cape Town, ZEITZ MOCAA, South Africa’s history of art is a long and interesting one. Often this history is closely tied to the political landscape, and most times reflects that landscape.
Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Park (recognised by UNESCO as a mixed cultural and World Heritage site) boasts the largest group of rock paintings to be found in sub-Saharan Africa. This can be considered the earliest examples of visual art, with subject matter that extends beyond the simple visual representations of day-to-day life towards a representation of spiritual and religious beliefs of the San people.
One of the oldest galleries in the country, the Goodman Gallery, situated in Johannesburg, was established in 1966 by Linda Givon. It quickly became an important instrument towards challenging the Apartheid laws that sought to segregate black and white people through all spheres of ordinary life, including arts and culture. In the early years, the gallery presented exhibitions by black artists such as David Koloane, Dumile Feni and Sydney Khumalo, who went on to play an active role in the creation and sustenance of The Federated Union of Black Artists (FUBA), established in 1978. Its main purpose was to collaboratively work with artists of different disciplines, particularly around issues of ownership and distribution. The Goodman Gallery remains a critical vessel through which to explore art history in relation to commerce.
SSouth Africa boasts a number of homegrown exports who have gone on to create remarkable bodies of work as well as contributing to the global art discourse. Among these are William Kentridge, Zanele Muholi, Kemang Wa Lehulere, David Goldblatt, Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi and Mary Sibande. We’re also very proud of icons such as Esther Mahlangu, a painter of large-scale works with references to the Ndebele heritage, who has exhibited and collaborated with international artists including Yoko Ono.
South Africa is home to a number of world-class institutions such as The Wits School of Arts in Johannesburg (offering programmes in digital art, fine art, film & television, history of art, theatre/performance and more), Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, and the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg. Over the years these have been significant in fostering a strong connection between art and activism.
Metropolitan cities like Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town make up a good part of the South African art scene, but some smaller towns have and continue to make a name for themselves. Among these are Parys in the Free State and Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape (to be renamed Makhanda, honouring Nxele, a Xhosa warrior, philosopher and prophet). Grahamstown is host town to the The National Arts Festival, an important event in South Africa’s arts calendar. The festival originated in 1974 and has gained a reputation as the leading arts festival, showcasing the best art in Africa through performances, comedy shows, visual art exhibitions and more.
Clarens in the Free State boasts a myriad of explorations, with a number of great restaurants and outdoor activities. Smaller galleries such as Addy & Hoyle Art Gallery and Art and Wine Gallery add to the scene.
DDurban, offers more than beautiful beaches, great weather and friendly faces - one can also indulge in contemporary art at Artisan Gallery, which has the finest South African handcrafted artwork and Fat Tuesday Gallery, showcasing paintings, ceramics and photography.
Despite mainstream contemporary art dominating the conversation, steps have been taken to integrate artists on the fringe. One of these is through The Joburg Fringe, often described as “the gutsy, independent, streetwise, annual art fair”, which runs alongside the famous Joburg Art Fair and congregates art lovers, collectors, galleries and thinkers around African contemporary art. Joburg Fringe creates a space for independent and emerging artists to engage with curators, collectors and the public, and takes place at Victoria Yards in the suburb of Lorentzville, an industrial complex turned artist hub cum urban farming landscape, cultivating not only some of the best art in the city but also seasonal fruit and vegetables. Victoria Yards is also home to a number of contemporary galleries and print studios, including Daville Baillie Gallery, Danger Gevaar Ingozi Studio (DGI) as well as artist studios with visual artists Blessing Ngobeni and Ayanda Mabulu.
A number of alternative art spaces provide a platform for different narratives and conversations. Among these are The Spaza Art Gallery in Troyeville, a gallery dedicated to showcasing young artists through music performances, public art works and more. Given the racial history of South Africa, spaces such as these as well as Gallery MoMo and MMArtHouse, some of the few 100% black-owned gallery spaces, are important, especially around issues of ownership and access.
A brilliant initiative to get a sense of the lay of the land is through participating in First Thursdays, where residents and tourists alike walk the streets of Johannesburg and Cape Town galleries, hopping from one spot to another, and enjoying exhibitions, live music, performance art and pop-up bars. This is truly one of the best ways to enjoy the art scene and all it has to offer.
AAbout the author
Nkgopoleng Moloi is a writer and photographer. She is interested in space, movement and how people navigate different spaces, particularly in cities. She is a contributor at Art Africa Magazine where she writes about contemporary visual art from Africa and the diaspora. She is passionate about art, history, architecture and design. Nkgopoleng has exhibited her work at Franschhoek Festival of Art 2018, Grammers Fotoza Exhibition 2018, Vital Signs group show 2017, Joburg Fringe 2017 and many more.
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With our country's 2500km coastline, in South Africa you are never too far away from the sea. From our tropical East Coast all the way to the sun-scorched West Coast, there's no shortage of beaches, sights and seaside life to craft the stories, that match that sun-kissed tan. Where else in the world will you find beaches littered with legends and caves? And how many other spots on earth have two oceans that embrace - one warm and the other an icy hug? This is how we South Africa. Come journey with us. There's always more to see.
Our culture is the expression of who we are and we are united in striving to express ourselves in a multitude of ways. We make the time to understand more about our country's traditional heritage, we know that the wise old ways of our ancestors will teach us where we have come from, and will guide us on our onward journey. This is how we South Africa! Come Journey with us.
Our industry has put in place globally-benchmarked health and safety protocols to ensure that all travellers and tourism sector employees are safe. We take everyone’s safety very seriously. Therefore, we plead with all travellers to embrace the new way of travelling within the COVID-19 environment, exercising patience as we have new protocols that must be observed and practiced.
With a countless number of places to see and exciting things to do in Johannesburg, everyone is bound to find entertainment to suit their tastes and their pocket. The vibrant culture and endlessly bustling hotspots are just some of the reasons why so many visitors keep coming back to the City of Gold.
With warm weather all year round, Durban, the hub of KwaZulu-Natal's leisure, business, and entertainment worlds, welcomes countless visitors to a relaxed, outdoor lifestyle where beaches barbecues, seafood and curry restaurants, clubs and upmarket accommodation establishments provide you with everything you could wish for while on your dream holiday.
At the tip of the African Continent, the Western Cape seems dazzling with more incredible scenery, attractions and sheer diversity than many other countries. From the world-famous Table Mountain to postcard-perfect valleys along the world’s most scenic wine route, a dream coastline decorated with historic towns and all of it lodged in some of the most unique and rare plant life in the world. And then there’s Cape Town, one of the world’s favourite cities, with its
From Durban – the sun, fun and entertainment capital of KwaZulu-Natal – to a magnificent stretch of Blue Flag beaches, surf spots and bustling holiday towns along the tropical to sub-tropical east coast, it’s hard to ignore this coastal treasure. And, moving inland, the Valley of a Thousands Hills and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Drakensberg Mountains ll up holiday memories. And through all this, explore nature and go on safari like nowhere else on earth at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, or journey into the history and culture of the mighty Zulu Kingdom.
The North West’s rugged bushveld landscape overflows with wildlife and ancient history. Be inspired by canopy tours through the Magaliesberg Mountains – once lapped by the ocean’s waves, two billion years ago – safaris in the famous Pilanesberg Game Reserve with a foundation laid by volcanic rock, or trace the origins of man back 2.5 million years at the Taung Skull discovery site. And then, we invite you to experience the hospitality of Sun City, to get spoilt at the Palace of the Lost City or thrilled at the Valley of the Waves.
South Africa’s mega province provides the backroads into some of the most unique landscapes in the world – some harsh, others spectacular, and some, simply not from this world. From the towering red sand dunes where black-maned Kalahari lions roam to the bizarre halfmens plants in the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, and from a billion owers bursting to life every year in the dry land of the Namaqualand to the Augrabies Falls, known as “the place of great noise”. Then there’s the rich history of diamonds, the rustic beauty of the Diamond Coast, and the epic Big Hole of Kimberley.
The Free State is a place of wide open spaces and true South African hospitality to go with rich history, stories of battles, gold rushes, early man and even dinosaurs. With its endless blue skies and at bushveld plains, here the silence of nature simply screams out for adventure – whether it is safaris, rafting, 4x4, skydiving, inspiring nature hikes, the famous Orange River safaris and water sports on the Gariep and Vaal dams. But, highland- safari journeys in The Golden Gate Highlands National Park stand out from the rest with its iconic golden sandstone cliffs.
Gauteng is the golden heartbeat of South Africa, leader of innovation, growth, art, culture and everything big, bold and world class. Johannesburg, South Africa’s melting pot of culture is home to the best urban experiences, restaurants, and entertainment in the country. “Jozi” is also a famous apartheid struggle hub, with museums and the former home of Nelson Mandela to tell the story. And, just on its doorstep are exciting safari experiences, water sports and holidays on the Vaal River as well as the origin of our human story at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.
The Eastern Cape is a province of great natural beauty from the ancient semi-arid Karoo, to the mighty Tsitsikamma Forest, from Blue Flag beaches to the natural wonders of the mesmerising Wild Coast. Only here can you surf the world’s biggest waves at Jeffreys Bay, go on a “Big Seven” safari (including: Great White sharks and Southern Right whales) in the enormous Addo Elephant Park, visit the birthplace of Nelson Mandela, and bungee jump off the highest bridge in the Southern Hemisphere. All, in one trip.
Welcome to South Africa’s capital city. Part of the package with any capital is a fascinating history and vibrant culture. Spend some time walking through South Africa’s history at its political heart. Visit the Union Buildings and Freedom Park; spend time in the various museums and learn more about our uniquely South African cultures or take a stroll around Church Square.
The Mpumalanga province is dominated by the Blyde River Canyon – the world's third-deepest gorge; the Sudwala Caves – the world's oldest caves; and the Kruger National Park – arguably the world's most famous wildlife sanctuary. Mpumalanga means 'the place where the sun rises', and while it may be among South Africa's smallest provinces, what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in spectacular natural diversity.