The British Museum’s exhibition South Africa: the art of a nation presents a history of the country through works of art. Art has played a key role in the country’s politics, from the National Party’s 1960s propaganda use of Jacob Pierneef’s ‘empty’ landscapes, to the recent work by Mary Sibande who, while acknowledging existing inequalities, foresees a bright future both for herself and the nation.
The exhibition features work by more than 20 modern and contemporary artists, positioned in a dialogue with objects from each historical period – from the deep past to the present. These contemporary works all have a political element, though some are more subtle and nuanced than others.
In this talk, co-curator Dr Chris Spring focuses on this element of the exhibition, analysing each work’s impact when it was created, and also the way these diverse works combine to create a rich and complex history of South Africa over 100,000 years.
Dr Chris Spring is the curator responsible for the British Museum’s collections from eastern and southern Africa, and contemporary African art. He is co-curator of the exhibition South Africa: the art of a nation (27 Oct 2016 – 26 Feb 2017).