IN: Inspiration


Throughout our nation’s history, South Africans have used art as a vehicle for social and political expression. We take a look at a few of South Africa’s most prominent sculptors and their remarkable work.


Jane Alexander

Johannesburg-born artist Jane Alexander rose to international acclaim while still a student with her unforgettable, haunting sculpture, The Butcher Boys. The piece – a chilling reference to the dehumanising forces of the Apartheid regime – was bought by the South African National Gallery in 1991, where it can be viewed by the public today.

Since then, Alexander has gone on to produce many more highly-acclaimed, contentious pieces, such as Bom Boys and Lucky Girls. In 2013, her piece Untitled sold for R5.5 million on auction, breaking the record for South African sculpture and contemporary art, according to auctioneers Strauss & Co. She currently lectures at Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town.


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William Kentridge

Although best known for his drawings, prints, and animated films, William Kentridge’s prolific body of work includes some of South Africa’s most famous sculptures. In 2009, Kentridge partnered with fellow South African artist Gerhard Marx to create Fire Walker – an 11m tall sculpture located in Johannesburg’s CBD. The sculpture is based on a drawing by Kentridge of a woman street vendor. Born in 1955 in Johannesburg, Kentridge continues to produce new and exciting work out of his hometown studio.

Fire Walker

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Willie Bester

Willie Bester was born in the small town of Montagu in 1956. He started painting and creating from a young age, but when, at the age of 10, he and his family was forcibly removed from their home under the Group Areas Act, Willie left school to help the family. It was only in adulthood that he returned to his passion for visual art, using it as a vehicle to express his political consciousness. Through his work, Bester became an active player in the anti-Apartheid movement.

Each of his works is made of a collection of mixed media, incorporating newspaper, tins, bones, car parts, and other bits and pieces that he attributes significance. Sculptures such as For Those Left Behind, Trojan Horse (I, II and III) and Sarah Baartman all discuss different aspects of South African history, heritage and identity.

Trojan Horse III

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Trojan Horse III, 2007, mixed media

Marco Cianfanelli

Marco Cianfanelli is a contemporary artist who focuses on the idea ‘place’ – not merely in terms of location or geographical coordinates, but the politics, economics and social responses we have to the spaces we occupy in South Africa.

Cianfanelli has had 7 solo exhibitions and has won numerous awards, including the ABSA L’Atelier and the Ampersand Fellowship. His focus on South Africa is realised through a number of public monuments, including The Freedom Park in Pretoria (which he worked on with a team of designers) and his piece Capture, which is situated at the exact spot where Nelson Mandela was captured over 50 years ago in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

Nelson Mandela Sculpture

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