SABC News - A visual accomplishment :Wednesday 9 November 2011

A visual accomplishment

Wednesday 9 November 2011 16:46

Tanja Bencun

Four volumes make up this in-depth narrative of SA art history

Four volumes make up this in-depth narrative of SA art history(Wits Press)

In a first for South African visual art - a set of four books, a national archive spanning 100 years, has just been published and will be on sale from tomorrow.

This narrative of our history, Visual Century: South African Art in Context 1907-2007, Volumes 1-4, is an ambitious four-volume publication that reappraises South African visual art of the twentieth century from a post-apartheid perspective. 

In-depth essays from 36 contributors, including leading art historians, writers, cultural commentators and artists, making it an indispensable resource.  Visual Century is the first project of its kind to bring together such a wide range of local writers. Having many voices work on this project allowed a layered and diverse approach giving the reader the opportunity to engage with different and interesting perspectives.

Project initiator and director Gavin Jantjes says: "South African right now and for the last five to ten years has been extremely popular. We have South African artists who are in the top four in the world, such as Marlene Dumas and William Kentridge."

Without archiving our history, it is lost in history

"You cannot move forward if you don't know where you come from, and this was my concern. If a young person today wanted to discover the history of South African art and see him or herself reflected in it they could not do that but today they can because we have a book that begins to tell that story."

Translating our stories into text and images and history are very much the driving force behind this art project. "Storytellers and writers need listeners and these emerge depending on the voices,"adds Jantjes.

After its local launch in South Africa this week, the books will be launched in New York and Washington next week. A series of documentary films and a dedicated website are planned for the next phase of the project.

Jantjes, together with editor-in-chief, Mario Pissarra of Africa South Arts Initiative (ASAI), commissioned and oversaw the exciting process of writing and putting the book together.

And now that these books exist and there is the possibility for people to read a consecutive history, the book offers one big question; What comes next?

Wits Press published the volume of books.

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