Enfolded in his loneliness as in an African blanket. One of the zombies apartheid has let loose upon the world, wandering ghost, sad and terrifying dreamer. Andre Brink, `A Fork in the Road.
A stunning picture of Cape Towns District Six by Gerard Sekoto (1913-1993), South Africas greatest black artist, sketched rapidly and fearfully, is set to make £200,000 to £300,000 at Bonhams
sale of South African Art in London on March 23.
The oil painting titled `Yellow Houses, District Six was produced in its earliest sketch form while the artist was on tenterhooks. Sekoto writes: "Although much of the time I would feel scared to enter too deep into the most dangerous seeming hide-outs of District Six, I hovered within arm's length, observing and making sketches in a very acrobatic style. This meant making quick sketches in such a manner that an observer would imagine I was noting down some forgotten names of articles I needed to buy or notes I had to attend to. But shortly I would go to the studio to work upon these sketches on pieces of paper which were reminders to me." (the artist as quoted by Barbara Lindop).
In a letter written by Sekoto in 1986, he discusses his approach and techniques of capturing outdoor scenes: "With most of my subject matter, I took little notes on the spot and went home to work in oil. It was rare that people would pose and even then mostly the models would be unnatural and not give me that which I would wish to capture. So I always travelled with all sorts of little bits of paper in my pocket... but almost never wished to work outdoors where people would peep into what I was doing, for that distracted my attention."
In his memoir `A Fork in the Road, South African author, Andre Brink speaks with a particular poignancy of meeting Sekoto in his Paris exile: the archetypal man with a great future behind him
he used to be one of the great debauchers of Paris, a brilliant jazz musician whod drunk himself to the brink of death in Montmartre ... he seems to wander through the streets around the Place de la Contrescarpe, mumbling, enfolded in his loneliness as in an African blanket. One of the zombies apartheid has let loose upon the world, wandering ghost, sad and terrifying dreamer.
`Yellow Houses District 6 represent the pinnacle of Sekoto's creativity. it confirms his status as an exemplary artist who is well-deserving of the fame and renowned legacy that his artistic reputation enjoys today. It is the synthesis of various influences and the triumph of Sekoto's early career from 1939 until this work was painted between 1942 and 1945. The picture is the jewel in Sekotos crown for its taut simplicity, harmony of colour and pervasive emotion. The devised architectural structure of walls, windows and doors emphasise and divide the two women and man from one another, accentuating their introspective self-absorption and inertia. Colour contrasts of red roofs and yellow walls and the long afternoon shadows suggest heat and its accompanying lassitude. The darkened shadows of the figures and the road in the foreground lead into the light-blue tonalities of the pavement, stoep and window interiors. The two disinterested passers-by, the woman's skirt uplifted in suggested speed of purpose, contrasts with the apathy and indolence of the mid-ground figures. Golden light surrounds and bathes the disconsolate trio, and the moment is frozen in time.
The universality of the human condition of poverty and unemployment is masterfully conveyed in Yellow Houses- District 6, whilst the painting still retains a quintessential South African ambiance. Sekoto believed freedom will come one day. Sekoto left the Cape in 1945 and went to live with his family in Eastwood, Pretoria. He was beginning to make preparations to leave South Africa.