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GERARD SEKOTO (article first published : 2004-06-29)

It is fitting, with all South Africa’s current anniversary celebrations, to pay tribute to Gerard Sekoto (1913 – 1993), a man who was talented in all art forms, creative writing, visual art and music.

The son of a Lutheran Missionary, Sekoto was born in Mpumalanga but lived in exile in France from 1947 until he died in 1993.

During Sekoto’s lifetime, he was acknowledged to be one of the most important artistic figures in the development of South African contemporary art. His achievements as an artist are widely known both in South Africa and internationally with awards from the French Government and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Witwatersrand. South Africa celebrates a Gerard Sekoto Day at various art institutions, with two major collections of his art housed at the University of the Witwatersrand Art Galleries and at the South African National Gallery, Cape Town.

However, it was his musical creations which lay hidden until 2002 when Barbara Lindop discovered 30 songs amongst Sekoto’s manuscripts that had been repatriated from France in 1993. “These songs found amongst Sekoto’s manuscripts were a unique and special find,” commented Lindop, “they were a great legacy and unlike art, are accessible to all and especially those in the rural areas. The lyrics convey a gentle humour, expressing a longing for his home as well as his determination to win favour with new friends in a foreign environment.”

Three of the songs were published in 1956 in Les Editions Musicales but the rest of the compositions have been brought to the South African public through a fund-raising project. The major sponsors of this project are the SABC Public Broadcasting Services, The National Lottery, De Beers, BMW and the French Embassy.

The sponsorship has enabled nine musicians, known as The Blue Heads, to record Sekoto’s music. The name ‘Blue Heads’ is inspired by a series of portraits of black men and women painted in a palette of blues. The band is dedicated to bringing to life the smooth jazz sounds composed by Sekoto, while he was living in Paris in the 50’s.

The Blue Heads will perform at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, on July 7 and 8. For more information visit the website www.nafest.co.za or phone 046 603 1103. Tickets are available from Computicket.




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