Gallery MOMO Cape Town is proud to present Revising the Archive, a showcase of works by the late Durant Sihlali.
Durant Sihlali was one of the great South African painters of the twentieth century. At a time when the Western art world, as well as the African Modernists, were moving towards surrealism, abstraction, and the avant-garde, Sihlali remained committed to his mimetic approach, in watercolours as well as printmaking, pulp painting, and sculpture. These works, in watercolour, charcoal, etching, and monoprint, date from 1956 to 1981, presenting a diversity of Sihlali’s skill in both medium and subject matter.
Sihlali’s works appear as vignettes of his life, from his travels in rural South Africa to the mise-en-scènes of township life. It’s been said that Sihlali paints like a photographer, recording subjects with an honest and compassionate eye. His sensitivity to the daily realities of black life during Apartheid contributes to an archive that witnesses both the sensational and the banal, crisis as well as the mundane that precedes crisis. The result is an oeuvre which challenges us to imagine a history in which large-scale political demonstrations and acts of violence cannot be separated from the way people navigate their domestic rituals and daily lives.
Durant Sihlali was born in Germiston in 1935. As a young artist, Sihlali studied at Chiawelo Art Centre under Alphius Kubeka, attending from 1950 to 1953. He also learned from the artists Carlo Sdoya and Sidney Goldblatt, and studied with Cecil Skotnes at the Polly Street Recreation Centre from 1953 to 1958. Sihlali painted hundreds of watercolours throughout his life. Mostly, he sold his paintings himself, at Joubert Park’s outdoor market in Johannesburg. Though, by the later years of his career, Sihlali’s works had been exhibited widely elsewhere in South Africa as well as Germany, Israel, Greece, the UK, the United States, France, Australia and Sicily. Sihlali headed the Fine Arts Department at the Federated Union of Black Artists (FUBA) from 1983 to 1988, and taught students from the Wits Technikon and the Funda Art Centre. He died of a heart attack in 2004 at his home in Soweto. Collections of his work include those at the University of Fort Hare, the Africana Museum in Johannesburg, the National Museum of Botswana and several South African corporate institutions.