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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

National Museum of African Art Releases Statement on “Recent Revelations About Bill Cosby’s Behaviour”

Gerard SekotoThe Smithsonian National Museum of African Art has released a statement concerning the “recent revelations about Bill Cosby’s behavior” with reference to a current exhibition of his African art collection.

The private collection of Bill and Camille Cosby – containing 62 works and including a painting by Gerard Sekoto – is being shown at the National Museum of African Art, entitled “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialog”.

Last week legal transcripts from 2005 were released that shed new light on the ongoing scandal involving rape allegations against the comedian. The transcripts show that Cosby admitted to obtaining quaaludes with the intention of giving them to women.

The museum distances itself from the scandal, saying that the artworks in the exhibition stand apart from the personal life of their owner.

Read the statement:

The National Museum of African Art is aware of the recent revelations about Bill Cosby’s behavior. The museum in no way condones this behavior. Our current “Conversations” exhibition, which includes works of African art from our permanent collection and African American art from the collection of Camille and Bill Cosby, is fundamentally about the artworks and the artists who created them, not the owners of the collections.

The artworks from the Cosbys’ collection are being seen by the public for the first time. The exhibition brings the public’s attention to African American artists whose works have long been omitted from the study and appreciation of American art.

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Don’t Miss Shaun Viljoen Discussing Richard Rive with Imraan Coovadia at Kalk Bay Books

Richard Rive: A Partial BiographyWits University Press and Kalk Bay Books would like to invite you to a discussion of Richard Rive: A Partial Biography by Shaun Viljoen.

Viljoen will be discussing writer, scholar and teacher Richard Rive, and the ideals and tensions that shaped his personality. He will be in conversation with Imraan Coovadia, author of, most recently, Tales of the Metric System.

The discussion will be at Kalk Bay Books at 6 for 6:30 PM on Thursday, 26 February.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 26 February 2015
  • Time: 6 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Kalk Bay Books
    124 Main Road
    Kalk Bay | Map
  • RSVP:, 021 788 2266

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Bill and Camille Cosby’s Private Art Collection – Featuring a Gerard Sekoto – Exhibited

Gerard SekotoThe private collection of Bill and Camille Cosby – including a painting by Gerard Sekoto – is being shown at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.

The collection, containing 62 works from the Cosby collection, features outstanding African and African-American artworks, and is entitled “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialog”.

Bill Cosby is quoted in the catalog saying: “I only picked artworks that gave me a feeling of calm, because I couldn’t stand to come home to the stereotypical images of mother or child or angry black people after dealing with some of the racist people I encountered during the day.”

The works in the Cosby collection are primarily from the hands of well-known African-American artists, most of whom were not necessarily well-known when the Cosbys collected them beginning in the mid- to late 1960s. As explained in a interview published in the exhibition catalog, the Cosbys first began to collect art in the 1960s to provide “art on the walls,” just as art by non- African-American artists was so often depicted in photographs of the homes of well-to-do white people. Subsequently “our collection began to grow and grow and grow,” recounted Bill Cosby in the catalog, “especially in the late 1960s after the television series I Spy, as we zoomed financially and began to buy houses and needed art to fill them.”

From the museum website:

One of the world’s preeminent private collections of African American art will have its first public viewing later this year at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue brings together artworks from the world-class collections of the National Museum of African Art and Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr. The exhibition, which opens at the museum Nov. 9 and remains on view through early 2016, is a major part of the museum’s 50th anniversary, celebrating its unique history and contributions toward furthering meaningful dialogue between Africa and the African diaspora.

Watch the video:

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Chabani Manganyi’s biography of the legendary South African artist, Gerard Sekoto: I Am an African, was published by Wits Press in 2004:

About the book

All my paintings searched to rediscover an identity common to all people of different origins, to the quest for the common relation between beings.Gerard Sekoto

Gerard Sekoto is without doubt one of South Africa’s major painters of the twentieth century. Considered increasingly as one of the earliest South African modernists and social realists, he completed his most memorable work during the early and middle years of the 1940s, first at Sophiatown (Johannesburg), then in District Six in Cape Town and later in Eastwood, Pretoria. When he left for Paris in 1947, he was at the height of his creative powers. Yet during the 45 years he spent as an exile in France, his talent, moral resilience, dedication, belief in the equality of all people and, most of all, his identity as an African sustained him during the most difficult times.

Sekoto said of his work, “All my paintings searched to rediscover an identity common to all people of different origins, to the quest for the common relation between beings.” The story told in this book reveals the extent to which triumphant moments in the painter’s life were, at times, accompanied by heart-rending adversity. Interesting too is the richness retrospectively brought to light by the discovery, after Sekoto’s death, of the painter’s suitcase of treasures, which contained previously unknown musical compositions, letters and a large quantity of notes, writings and private documents. The biography ends with a statement by Sekoto on art and the responsibility of artists, which he presented in Rome in 1959. Photographs and full color plates of previously unpublished and significant paintings are included.

About the author

N Chabani Manganyi is a clinical psychologist, biographer and non-fiction writer.

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Adam Habib and Shaun Viljoen at the Franschhoek Literary Festival (16 – 18 May)

South Africa's Suspended RevolutionRichard RiveAdam Habib, author of South Africa’s Suspended Revolution, and Shaun Viljoen, author of Richard Rive: A Partial Biography, will be at the 2014 Franschhoek Literary Festival, which is taking place from 16 to 18 May.

Habib will be discussing South Africa’s political leadership and tertiary education and Viljoen will be talking about researching biographies in a digital age.

Saturday 17 May

SA’s Political Leadership Quagmire
10 AM – 11 AM (New School Hall)
Ray Hartley asks Adam Habib (SA’s Suspended Revolution), Rhoda Kadalie (In Your Face) and Prince Mashele (The Fall of the ANC) if, in their opinion, our leaders are sinking or treading water to stay afloat.

What’s to Become of Biography?
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM (Congregational Church)
Now that letters are becoming extinct and handwritten records rare, where will biographers find their hard
material? Henrietta Rose-Innes asks of poet/novelist Finuala Dowling, Mark Gevisser and Shaun Viljoen (Richard Rive: A partial biography).

The University Business
4 PM – 5 PM (Church Hall)
Francis Wilson talks candidly to vice-chancellors Saleem Badat, recently resigned from Rhodes, Adam Habib of Wits, and Max Price of UCT about the often contentious issues they face and ways to make university education more flexible and attuned to future employment.

Sunday 18 May

Does Democracy Work?
1 PM – 2 PM (New School Hall)
In the aftermath of the election and tumultuous ongoing ‘Arab Springs’, Peter Harris (Birth) gives the floor alternately to Adam Habib, Eusebius McKaiser, Pieter-Dirk Uys and Mike van Graan.

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Video and Tweets from the Woordfees 2014 Discussion on Richard Rive

Richard RiveRichard Rive, best-known for his excellent play ‘Buckingham Palace’, District Six, was murdered in 1989 – an act that robbed the South African literary community of a strong, talented voice.

At the recent discussion on Rive and Shaun Viljoen’s book Richard Rive: A Partial Biography at the SU Woordfees 2014, veteran journalist Amanda Botha and actor Basil Appollis lamented the fact that Rive had not received the recognition that he deserved. Most of his writing had been banned during apartheid.

It was specifically the recognition of his own community that Rive sought, Appollis said. But instead he faced prejudice within his own family because his skin was darker than his siblings’.

Botha spoke about Rive’s friendship with many Afrikaans writers such as Jan Rabie, Elsa Joubert and Ingrid Jonker. She said she is glad that some of Rive’s works are now begin republished.

Appollis, who used to play the lead role in ‘Buckingham Palace’, District Six, performed powerful scenes from the drama at the event:

Carolyn Meads tweeted live from the event using #Woordfees2014:

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Amanda Botha bespreek Shaun Viljoen se gedeeltelike biografie van Richard Rive

Richard Rive“Hierdie ‘gedeeltelike’ biografie deur Viljoen is die eerste oor ­Rive en bied ’n boeiende insig in die psige en ontwikkeling van die man wat sy pa nie geken het nie en as laatlammetjie veel donkerder van kleur was as die res van sy familie,” skryf Amanda Botha oor Shaun Viljoen se boek, Richard Rive: A Partial Biography in ‘n artikel oor boeke uit Distrik Ses vir Rapport.

Botha prys Viljoen dat hy dit regkry om Rive se lewe en werk aan te bied deur ‘n “intieme blik op die kollektiewe psige van ’n belangrike deel van ons samelewing” en beklemtoon dat die sensitiwiteit waarmee die biograaf te werk gegaan het noemenswaardig is. “Belangrik ook is Viljoen se ondersoek na die invloede in Rive se werk – ’n lewe verreken in letterkunde.”

Botha tree later vanjaar op by die US Woordfees waar sy die lewe en werk van Rive met behulp van Vijoen se studie met Appollis sal bespreek.

As jy iets van die ou Distrik Ses beleef het, sal die indrukke van die oorvol strate met gillende, laggende kinders, die gemoedelikheid van mense wat praatjies op straathoeke maak, wapperende wasgoed, visverkope op die sypaadjies en groente- en vrugtestalletjies soos ’n home movie voor jou geestesoog afspeel.

Jy sal die karakters van die buurt in herinnering roep, mense wat elke dag eerbaar hul bydrae gemaak het, maar ook weet van die ou roekers, die partyjollers, die naghole van matrose en prostitute. Jy sal onthou van die wonderwêreld as die Klopse kom, die gejuig en gejil om ’n nuwe jaar in te dans. Jy sal weet van mense wat nooit hul drome verloor het om later somebodies te word nie. Iets van die hoop sal jou bybly as jy later name onthou van mense wat onuitwisbare spore in ons breër Suid-Afrikaanse lewe getrap het.


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Richard Rive by Shaun Viljoen to be Discussed at Stellenbosch University Woordfees 2014

Richard RiveShaun Viljoen’s book Richard Rive: A Partial Biography will be the topic of discussion at an event during the annual Stellenbosch University Woordfees.

Amanda Botha and Basil Appollis will talk about this sensitively crafted biography of the life and times of Richard Rive, one of South Africa’s most intriguing figures. An enigmatic closed book and a supreme show-off, a poor District Six kid who wanted the world to know of him – and triumphed. According to Chris van Wyk: ‘A feast to be savoured’.

The discussion takes place at the kykNET Erfurthuis on Saturday 15 March and starts at 1 PM.

See you there!

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Potgooi: Shaun Viljoen gesels oor Richard Rive: A Partial Biography en die skrywer se nalatenskap

Richard RiveShaun Viljoen, outeur van Richard Rive: A Partial Biography, het onlangs met Corina van der Spoel gesels op Ilse Salzwedel se RSG radioprogram, Skrywers en Boeke. Basil Appollis, ‘n bekende akteur en regisseur van die produksie My Word! – ‘n viering van die lewe van Richard Rive – het saam met Viljoen oor Rive se lewe, werk en nalatenskap gesels.

Viljoen noem dat Rive se werk merkwaardig was omdat dit insig gebied het tot die lewe van ‘n swart man tydens die apartheidsjare en wys uit dat Buckingham Palace, District Six: A Novel of Cape Town Rive se belangrikste bydrae was.


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Video: 21 Icons South Africa Shares Short Documentary, Portrait and Essay on Phillip Tobias

Into the PastFilmmaker and photographer Adrian Steirn is in the process of creating mini-documentaries, portraits and essays on extraordinary South Africans and recently completed a profile of paleoanthropologist Phillip Vallentine Tobias, who passed away last year.

“You need to get out, driven by the thrill of discovery, but, also one has to have the patience to get down and study,” Tobias says in the documentary. He talks about how grateful he is that he was alive to see South Africa transition from apartheid and reveals that he was still using an electric typewriter. At the time Tobias was working on a second memoir, but was being kept busy by the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin: “Darwin kept me so busy — there were symposia, there were meetings, there were talks, we had a cocktail party at Wits University for his birthday”. An updated edition of his memoir Into the Past was launched last month and includes the material he was writing, as well as a new introduction.

Watch the documentary, view Steirn’s portrait of Tobias and read the essay below:

Phillip Tobias’s father owned a toyshop. Imagine the treasures unearthed by the wide-eyed son. He’d go down to the store and ride the scooters and tricycles for sale. Sadly, the dream didn’t last. The toyshop flourished in the early years, but the emergence of wholesale bazaars drove his father to bankruptcy. This is not a tragic story.

Something must have clicked in the young boy’s mind. Open the door to Tobias’s office today and you’ll discover a paleontological toyshop of artifacts, trinkets, skeletal remains and books. Volumes and volumes of books. It’s a glorious trove of science, research and curatorship. Tobias’s office categorises the extent of human existence; all that is missing is the man himself.

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Updated Edition of Into the Past Launched at Phillip Tobias Memorial Lecture

Helen Fisher Into the Past“The death of Phillip Tobias on 7 June 2012 marked the end of an era of pioneering discovery of our ancestry in Africa. Through his development of a Palaeoanthropology Research Unit in the Wits Anatomy Department, he provided a link between the earlier research and that of the younger generation. Now that he is gone, he can truly be described as a missing link to the past,” says Ronald Clarke, a long-time collaborator with Tobias and fellow palaeoanthropologist. He wrote the prologue to the new and updated edition of Tobias’ memoir, Into the Past, launched by the Wits University Press last Tuesday evening to coincide with the second Phillip Tobias lecture and the 9th Palaeontological Scientific Trust (PAST) keynote lecture in the Wits University Great Hall.

Introducing the book was Robert Blumenschine, who came from Rutgers University to take up the legacy of Phillip Tobias at Wits in 2012. He told the audience that PAST was founded to fund Phillip Tobias’ work in Sterkfontein. Into the Past was first published in 2005 and was intended as the first of two books. Sadly, Tobias never finished the second book. The first edition covered the first forty years of Tobias’ life, while the new edition includes an epilogue containing his notes intended for a second volume of his memoir. It describes his work with Louis and Mary Leakey on the fossil remains of the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, the world’s richest fossil hominid site. This collaboration and their analysis of the finds there was to have wide-reaching consequences on our understanding of Africa as the birthplace of modern humans.

Blumenschine also related how Tobias advised film director Stanley Kubrick on the opening scenes of 2001 – A Space Odyssey, and how he hopped around on a desk in his office to demonstrate how the movements of the creatures in the movie should be.

The lecture was by Dr Helen Fisher, Biological Anthropologist at Rutgers University, who chose the subject “The Evolution of Love and Who We Choose”. She described how she conducted brain scans on thousands of people, those who were in love and those who were not, to measure their brain activity and the chemistry aroused in their brains. For example, romantic love arouses dopamine activity in the brain. Her research suggests that people fall into four main biological types, those characterised by dopamine (the explorer), serotonin (the builder), testosterone (the director) and Estrogen (the negotiator). Our brain architecture goes along with these four types and determines the mates we choose. “A huge amount of who we are comes from evolution,” she says.

A lively discussion followed her presentation.

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