Image of Woman – Parow Art School

My visit to the Parow Art School some years ago was a revelation, one that I needed — I have been pessimistic about South Africa as a country supporting the arts.  I was told that the students were mostly of high school age.  This made what I saw the more remarkable.  I chose a theme – the image of the woman, though there were other themes and media. I have to apologize that, at the time, I did not record the names of the artists.


There was a depth in the work carried by technical skill.  These young artists were not staring at surfaces.

The work questioned  attitudes and traditional values.  It celebrated life.  These images search.  For me, if an image stirs something in me, nameless as that emotion may be, the image has done its work.

A painting about family murder


This exhibition was clearly a feather in the cap of the teachers.  Their honing of talent did a good job helping to evict my pessimism.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2019


My photographs

My gratitude to the Parow Art School




Xhanti Mkapama – sculptor

My friend and past colleague Charmian Plummer invited me some years ago to the inaugural exhibition at the Imibala Gallery, Somerset West, where the sculpture of Xhanti Mkapama was being exhibited.  She told me that some time before that she had met Xhanti, then unknown, who showed her his work  —  in clay, I believe.  From there began an arduous journey for the bronze casting of the clay, something that nobody, it seemed, wanted to risk financially.  Dauntless, Charmian eventually found a past student of hers who had a foundry and he was prepared to do the casting.


The rest, as they say, is history.  Xhanti Mkapama, locally-born, has advanced from strength to strength as he becomes better known in South Africa.  He achieves a realism within a certain stylization.  The female figures are elegant, swirling with vitality.  One can almost say, they enjoy themselves, these figures.


The figures of children are engaging in their play.  As with his other creations, they have an energy, a quality that characterizes the fundamental optimism that informs his work.

There was also a striking figure of an old man, which I found particularly moving.

A while before the exhibition, Xhanti was commissioned to sculpt a figure of Shaka Zulu.  His local reputation as an artist now became international.

Last year (2018), on 24th July, a statue of Nelson Mandela on the balcony at the City Hall in Cape Town, which Xhanti co-created with Barry Jackson, was unveiled.  This figure commemorates the speech that Mandela made after his 27-year incarceration and the onset of the new South Africa.

On the evening of his exhibition, Xhanti thanked Charmian warmly for the part she had played in the recognition of his work.  Those attending were moved by the details of the story which paves the way for recognizing other deserving talent.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2019


My photographs

Balcony image –

With gratitude to Charmian Plummer



The warriors, the soldiers – some depictions

When does a soldier become a warrior?  Perhaps, in reality, they are precisely the same thing.  It is our perceptions of them, the purposes of our depictions of them, that make a difference between the two.

At the Centotaph in Cape Town, erected after the First World War, there is the figure of a soldier with his ready bayonet.

The Centotaph at Durban has a bronze relief depicting British soldiers in a scene from the Anglo-Boer War.

I am uncertain if I call the figure at the feet of the Paul Kruger statue in Pretoria a soldier.  He has a rifle, but he is lost in thought.  An action stance would make him more of a soldier.  Or is it what a soldier looks like when the war has been lost?

It is easy for South Africans to apply the word warrior to Shaka Zulu, the leader of the Zulu people in the early-19th century.  This depiction, it is maintained, is of Shaka Zulu, a warrior in full cry.  Other depictions of him have been more stately.


In Bongeunsa, southern Seoul, the entry portals of the Buddhist monastery display these depictions of warriors.  The stylization and the flambouyant colour swirls show the reverence and affection for the memory of these warriors.  The warrior-monks of Bongeunsa have a proud history of resistance to the Japanese invasions which happened from time to time in history.

I was interested to find this relief in the pediment on which a 20-metre figure of Buddha was standing.  I would say here the warrior-soldier dichotomy now become one.

There were many depictions of warriors in various places in Korea.  At Ichon, I was intrigued by the modern-day tribute to soldiers fighting in the civil war of 1950-1953, Koreans and Americans, side by side.  This scene of soldiers is extensive and has the War Memorial as a backdrop.  The colours have gone.

Do we, as the post-Sixties generation, see the depiction of soldiers differently?  Do we, despite our ideologies, not find ourselves honouring soldiers for what they went through?  Can we afford a fundamentally new meaning and purpose for  warrior energy that we potentially have?

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2019



Cape Town Centotaph – Cape Town Daily

Durban Centotaph – Wikipedia

Kruger statue – Pinterest

Shaka Zulu – Wikipedia

Korean images – my phgotographs




Images of women – a private collection

In this remarkable home, it is difficult to look anywhere without seeing something fascinating or an object of beauty.  My lifelong friend Douglas has been a collector for as long as he can remember, sauntering around flea markets with a sharply informed eye.  He is, in fact, one of the foremost tile collectors in the country.  Of late he has begun selling some of the objects on the internet, to the joy of those seeking rarities.  I share images of women that grace the dining room of the house, the lounge and the study.

Here is a ceramic vase with an engraved figure of a woman carrying a basket on her head — a traditional South African image with an unusual treatment.

This ceramic sculpture has a classical feel.  Is it Poseidon’s daughter or is that merely an epic wind?

These two well-glazed figures (from the same artist?) form an interesting contrast — the one is demurely downcast; the other bravely thoughtful.

This lino-cut, by an artist called Rix (if my magnifying-glass is to be believed), colourful and vital, could depict a dancer in traditional costume.

This striking sculpture may be one of those he has sold.  For me, it has both power and sadness.

This was, as I remember, a poster by Judith Mason, one of the foremost artists in South Africa.  A complex, thought-provoking image.

I’m not sure how old this stained-glass image is.  It could be 19th-century, as many of the tiles in the house are, or it could be a modern reproduction.  It reminds me of the Symbolist or PreRaphaelite movements.

This image hangs over the fireplace in the lounge, having pride of place.  It reminds me of the 19th-century trends towards realism.

© Will van der Walt

Bridgewater, Somerset West, written early-September

Posted in Les Semboules, Antibes, January, 2019



My photographs


With much gratitude to Douglas






The Mowbray Murals

These murals appeared on the streetside of garden walls on Raapenburg Road in Mowbray, some years ago.  I can’t say who painted them, but they impressed me, fine examples of hip-hop graffiti art.

This international movement which includes break-dancing and rap music, takes its ideological origin in the Bronx, New York in the 1970s and 1980s.

I’m not sure if there is a willingness to admit influence amongst the hip-hop artists.  For me there are striking similarities with cubism and some abstract expressionist artists.

Fernand Leger

I find them exciting, charged with an angular yang  energy, wild and searching.  I think it is fair to say that this kind of hip hop graffiti art has done an enormous amount for those would seldom, if ever, see the inside of an art gallery or museum.

When I last passed there, the walls had been “cleaned” of these paintings.  I forgive the hands that did that.  They know not what they do.

© Will van der Walt

Bridgewater, Somerset

Written early September, 2018



Wikipedia Hip Hop painting



My photographs

Leger – source lost




Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art

The first in a series of three

My visit to the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, Waterfront, Cape Town, was a revelation to me.   It opened its doors in September of 2017, the work having commenced in 2014.  It has been described as the biggest of its kind in the world.

For me the outer character of the building with the segmented glass roof will still take a little time to get used to.  Perhaps the intention of the architects was to contrast the artifice of the glass with the earth-coloured silos.  These silos have been there for at least a century and what to do with them in the development of the Waterfront has been a point of discussion when the Waterfront was first developed in 1991.  The Waterfront itself contributed R500 million to the project, while Jochen Zeitz, a German businessman, contributed his collection of contemporary African art to the Museum on permanent loan.

The entrance atrium was for me most striking.  It is difficult to appreciate from a photograph as the height  (the silos are 57 m tall) is seldom captured.  There is brilliance in the way the original silos have been carved away to create this memorable space.  It may, in fact, be the most amazing feature of the entire museum.  Notice the all-glass lift in the bottom lefthand corner.

The base of this atrium has been used for music concerts.  You can see the scale from the people wandering in it.  This part of the museum is, in fact, below ground-level and there is also the Centre for Art Education.  Children and adults can be part of artistic activities.

At the top of the Museum the space has been given to a restaurant that looks over the harbour area.  What intrigued me was the huge glass segments through which you see a fragmented world.  In the following image of Table Mountain, through this glass, you are looking at reflections of clouds, which lend a surreal vision.


© Will van der Walt

Bridgewater, Somerset West

Written mid-September, 2018



Wikipedia Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art



My photographs


With thanks to Douglas who shared this with me


Reflection of silos in neighbouring building

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art

Second in a series of three

I think we have been conditioned by tourist paraphernalia, bead work and pottery to expect a certain type of thing at a museum of African art.  There was nothing like that at the MOCAA.  Every art cliché was banished.

I walked up to the first of five levels on a stairway that felt like a work of art itself.

In an exhibition called All Things Equal there was a series of photographs of a man wearing creative forms of masks.  The Kenyan artist Cyrus Katoire, b. 1984, even used calabash pods.  And if each image was equal in size to the others, each image was startlingly different.

Even before I entered the next space I was aware of music, loud, brash and funerial.  In this darkened room was an animated art work by William Kentridge, considered by many as South Africa’s leading contemporary artist.  There were six 3 X 5 metre screens depicting a landscape that looked like a devastated world, done in charcoal.  The work is called  “More Sweet Play Dance” (2015).

In the foreground, figures that had been filmed were moving epically across this landscape from one screen to the next and out at the last one.   In part, the feeling was of a parade of grief;  in part, a parade of triumph.  A most moving experience.

In another series of rooms was an exhibition by Roger Ballen, an American-born South African artist who is known for his photography.  This exhibition, however, was partly sculpture, partly child-like drawings.  The theme was that the mind was a home refuge against external threats.  The effect was unsettling, touching on an uneasy dream.




Benin artist Julien Sinzogan, b. 1957, exhibited two painting/sketches dealing with the history of slavery.

Le Choc du Cultures

Bon vent a tous

There was an exhibition of 19th-century images of runaway slaves, probably American, together with detailed descriptions of what these people looked like.  This is the work of British-born artist Isaac Julien, an example of African diaspora art.

© Will van der Walt

Bridgewater, Somerset West

Written mid-September, 2018


With thanks to Douglas


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