Gerard Sekoto

The son of a priest and a schoolteacher, Gerard Sekoto (1913 – 1993) was born in Boshabelo, South Africa on a mission station. The same year saw the first of the segregation laws being passed by the parliament of South Africa – laws that eventually drove Sekoto (together with many other artists, musicians, academics, and activists) into self-imposed exile. He left South Africa for Paris in 1947 and stayed there until his death. Sekoto’s earliest forays into art involved the modeling of clay from a riverbed and chalk drawing on slate used at school. It was in 1928 when he began his teachers’ training and discovered coloured pencils that his talent started coming to the fore. In 1938, he won second prize in a painting competition organized by Fort Hare University College. This achievement led to him leaving teaching and moving to Sophiatown to pursue a career as a full-time artist. His reputation grew and led to a number of group exhibitions. In 1940 one of his paintings was the first painting by a Black artist to be acquired by the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Sekoto was recognized for his ability to capture the humanity and realism of everyday scenes, giving dignity to Black South Africans. Despite his initial struggles in exile, Gerald’s reputation grew and he went on to exhibit extensively in Europe, the USA, and South Africa today, Gerald is widely recognized as a pioneer of Black South African art.