Communality of Identity in Post-Apartheid South Africa: The Reception and Consumption of the Sculpture of Johannes and Collen Maswanganyi

By Elfriede Dreyer.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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

The International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.13-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.592MB).

Prof. Elfriede Dreyer

Senior lecturer, Department of Fine Arts, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

The topics of posthumanity, technoculture, Romanticism and utopia/dystopia are ongoing interests in Elfriede Dreyer’s practical and theoretical research. Besides the curating of several exhibitions she exhibited her own work widely, both locally and internationally. As an interdisciplinary arts specialist she teaches and publishes in the fields of Fine Arts and Visual Communication at the University of Pretoria since March 2003 and before that at UNISA from 1990 to 2003. She was the recipient of several research grants and obtained qualifications in the fields of Fine Arts, Art History, Philosophy, French, Education, Music and Multimedia. She has set up international liaison in the field of Multimedia and is well known as an adjudicator for art competitions and as an external examiner in the disciplines of Fine Arts and Art History. She presented papers at several national and international conferences and chaired a few sessions.

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