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Sekoto, Gerard

Sekoto, Gerard (1913 – 1993)

Gerard Sekoto was born at the Lutheran Mission Station in Botshabelo near Middelburg in the Eastern

Transvaal. Being the son of a missionary he was introduced to music at a young age. He studied at

the Diocesan Teachers Training College in Pietersburg and on graduating taught at Khaiso Secondary

School for 4 years. During this time he entered an art competition organized by Fort Hare University in

which he came second, George Pemba won the competition.

In 1938 he moved to Johannesburg to pursue a career as an artist. He held his first solo exhibition in

1939. In 1940 Johannesburg Art Gallery purchased one of his works, it was the first painting by a black

artist to enter a museum collection. In 1942 he moved to District 6 in Cape Town and then in 1945 he

moved to Pretoria.

In 1947 he left for Paris under a self-imposed exile. At first it was hard and he was employed as a pianist

for a nightclub. Between 1956-1960 he composed 29 songs recalling the loneliness of exile. In 1966

he visited Senegal for a year. In the 1970’s Gerard Sekoto’s works became politically motivated due to

the apartheid in South Africa. In 1989 the Johannesburg Art Gallery honored him with a retrospective

exhibition and the University of Witwatersrand with an honorary doctorate.

He died on 20 March 1993 at a retirement home outside Paris.

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