Arts, Art and Architecture
Hendrik Pierneef, Thomas Baines, Ndebele people, British influences, South African artists
South Africa has more than 3,000 sites of rock art dating from the Stone Age that depict animals and other subjects. The Ndebele people are known for the bold and brightly colored patterns with which they paint their traditional rural homes. Early paintings by European travelers like Thomas Baines have considerable documentary value today. South Africa’s first professional artists, including Hugo Naude and Jan Volschenck, depicted landscapes and were strongly influenced by the artistic traditions of Britain and the Netherlands. Subsequently, artists like H. Stratford Caldecott and especially J. Hendrik Pierneef found ways of translating the distinctive character of the South African environment. Much modern art by black South Africans originated in the townships around Johannesburg as early as the 1950s. Reflecting black South Africans’ struggles under the apartheid system, this art became known as township art. South African artists also experiment with most foreign styles. Landscapes remain an important theme, and recently some artists have also begun to concentrate on environmental issues.
Architecturally, South Africa is best known for the distinctive Cape Dutch buildings found mainly in the Western Cape and considered among the world’s most beautiful domestic architecture. Distinctive features include thick, whitewashed walls, curved gables, and a long, raised stoep, or verandah. Early rectangular buildings were frequently extended into L-shaped structures, followed later by more ambitious designs, including the distinctive H-plan of some larger country houses.
After the British occupation in 1806, the Cape Dutch style was slowly superseded by British influences, including Georgian architecture and, for public buildings and churches, neoclassical and Gothic Revival styles. The Victorian period of the mid- and late 1800s was marked by a great diversity of styles and influences. In Pietermaritzburg several fine buildings featured the bricks produced there. During the second half of the 20th century the influence of American architect Louis Kahn tended to predominate.
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