The sculpture of South African Venda artists Johannes Maswanganyi and his son, Collen Maswanganyi, challenges traditional arthistorical boundaries on three levels: art versus craft; art versus design; and art versus decoration. Such contestations on formal, conceptual and political levels became evident when their work was exhibited at Fried Contemporary Art Gallery in Pretoria in October 2005 – the artists’ first ever solo exhibition at a ‘high-art’ gallery. This exhibition entitled The Maswanganyi Family will be investigated in the paper in order to find evidence regarding the character of South African art reception and the possibility of a communal South African identity more than a decade after the initial processes of political and cultural transformations started in South Africa in 1994. Through this case study it will be shown that that the reception of the artists’ work revealed leftovers of cultural separatist ideologies from before 1994 when South Africa was still under Nationalist regime and thus that arthistorical categorisation and definitions are conditional to the local socio-political context, that is, where, when and how artworks are produced and exhibited. In the attempt to demonstrate that audience often determines the status and meaning of artworks, aspects such as the character and content of the Maswanganyi sculptures; the concept of the exhibition; attendance; recorded comments; and sales will be critically scrutinised. The argumentation will revolve around notions of cultural association with sculptural form; cultural abject in terms of classification; voice; authenticity; and authorship.
|Keywords:||Communality, Identity, Post-Apartheid, Authenticity, Audience, Reception, Meaning, Transformation|
Senior lecturer, Department of Fine Arts, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
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