South African Historical and Contemporary Art and Architecture - Paper Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  3
Wordcount:  621 Words
Date:  2021-06-14

Art is the expression of human creative imagination and skills in a visual form such as drawings, weaving, paintings, pottery, beads, and sculpturing. On the other hand, architecture is the conceptualizing, designing and construction of buildings (Kasfir, 1992).

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South Africa is considered one of the cradles of humanity, boasting a wide variety and richness in culture. Before colonialization, South Africa was predominantly influenced by the culture and traditions on the two largest tribes namely the Khoisan and the San (Vansina, 2014). They are responsible for the multiple cave paintings e.g.

The San Bushman rock paintings in the Drakensberg range of mountains.

The San were Africas oldest hunter-gatherers. This drawing is believed to be over four thousand years when the San used to rule the majority of the land before being driven away by the colonialist. The culture was also changed when the Bantus arrived. Along the coast, the Asians had an influence as they were trading and intermarrying. The culture was crowned by the arrival of the colonialists who were the British (Vansina, 2014).

Even though the British tried to eradicate the locals and their culture, the tribes managed to preserve their culture and art. A good example is the golden treasures of Mapungubwe.

These treasures are believed to be from AD 1220 to 1290 Mapungubwe which was the capital of the first true kingdom in South Africa. Though these figures originated from Arabian and Egypt, they were found in the royal burial graves of the Mapungubwe. This shows the extent of trade in that era and the influence of the kingdom (Vansina, 2014).


These were the precursor to Zimbabwe. The Mapungubwe were the most elite and socially complex kingdom in South Africa. They built most of their settlements on mountain ranges and buildings were made of stone. Their designs lasted for more than three hundred years and were later replaced by another refined technique where they built walls by carefully connecting cut stones.


The design was a reflection of both the Asian architecture and the native. Its signature was a rectangular dwelling with a peaked roof built on short stilts. They were mainly made out of plant materials and brick. Other types of styles include the Zulu architecture, Sotho-Tswana architecture and the Afrikaner which was constructed by the settlers.

Contemporary means that of today. South Africa has changed in its art and architecture due to its modernization and also post-colonial experiences. It is diverse and vibrant influenced by technology (Buggenhagen, 2016). Examples are:

The Creation of the Sun

The piece of painting was made in 2015 through a collaboration of Jeni Couzyn and Sandra Sweers. It depicts a god-like figure forming the sun as the rest of man rejoiced trying to come out to the light.

Karle Nel's 'Potent fields' (2002)

It is a red and white contrast from Transkei. It symbolizes the coexistences of races in South Africa to form a single beater nation. Contemporary architecture has changed in South Africa.

Construction moved from stones to concrete, metal, and glass with exotic interiors such as rare wood and marble. Modernization mainly influences this with the invention of new construction techniques and blend of materials (Buggenhagen, 2016). Examples are:

Soweto Theatre

The theater was built using ArcelorMittal steel and glass. The iconic building seats 700 and was designed by Architects. It was the finalist in the World Architecture Festival (WAF) awards in 2012.

Location on Google Earth.

Carlton Centre

This is a concrete skyscraper over 223 meters built in 1973. It has 50 floors and is located in Johannesburg. It houses office spaces, hotel, and a shopping Centre.

Location on Google Earth


Buggenhagen, B. (2016). Dak'Art 11th Biennale of Contemporary African Art (review). african arts, 49(1), 82-85.

Kasfir, S. L. (1992). African art and authenticity: A text with a shadow. African Arts, 25(2), 41-97.

Vansina, J. (2014). Art history in Africa. Routledge.

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South African Historical and Contemporary Art and Architecture - Paper Example. (2021, Jun 14). Retrieved from

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