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Tribute to Ephraim Ngatane



Sam Nhlengethwa

South Africa

1955 –

No image
  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    South Africa
    Media categories
    Painting , Collage
    Materials used
    collage, acrylic and oil on canvas
    140.0 x 180.3 x 10.0 cm
    Purchased with funds provided by Atelier 2021
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Sam Nhlengethwa
    Artist information
    Sam Nhlengethwa

    Works in the collection


  • About

    In Tribute to Ephraim Ngatane, Sam Nhlengethwa has employed his signature combination of painting and collage, bring the two techniques together in such a manner that it is difficult for the viewer to discern between painted and printed elements. Nhlengethwa often pays homage to other artists in his work and in this painting he references Ephraim Ngatane, an artist and activist who was pioneering in his depiction of black South African political and social realities. Ngatane died in 1977 (at the age of 33) after a short but highly influential career.

    The painting portrays a domestic interior that features two paintings by Ngatane: Reading a Newspaper 1969, which is in the collection of a prominent Black private collector in Johannesburg; and a street scene in Soweto, very typical of the artist’s depictions of life in apartheid segregated townships. (The former is depicted in an oversized frame – a framing technique commonly used in South Africa in the 1970s to enhance the importance of a smaller work). Also depicted are three works of traditional African art from Nhlengethwa’s personal collection: two masks of West African origin, and a bowl thought to be from the Limpopo region of South Africa. The mid-century credenza and pendant light are items from the artist’s home. By bringing traditional African sculpture together with politically oriented art and modern furniture, Nhlengethwa paints a complex and nuanced portrait of contemporary South African art. As with many of his interiors, which are often devoid of people, the painting also functions as a form of self-portraiture, representing the artist’s aesthetic taste as well as his politics.