George Gladwin Matsheke
Education Wednesday / Increased representivity in the South African Art History Education


As a body of knowledge, South African Visual Arts curricula are largely Eurocentric.  My frustrations are less about what is included the curriculum, as what is excluded.  There is a definite absence of black scholars and Black Art Movements in the academic texts.  I use the term “black” to describe a people of indigenous African descent as well as Africans in the Diaspora.

We can argue the question of Blackness and what that may mean, but what remains is that there is a certain point of view that is sprung from a Black experience shared by people within that cluster.  The continued thrust of a Eurocentric approach to Learning is what propels the necessity of the exploration of Visual communication devised for n non-European audience.

How Learners define and articulate theories is based on their cultural identities as well as the socio-political spaces they occupy.  If their socio-political spaces centre on a largely peri-urban Black existence, how do we dare require that they communicate to this audience via a foreign Visual Language? If indeed the pulse of their societies is felt in their veins, it is only reasonable to expect that they express this “vibe” to a ready audience.

Visual Arts curricula do not adequately highlight their cultural presence, heritage and history.  At present, there is an apparent devaluing of African histories and knowledge in the curriculum.  The creative works of the indigenous peoples of the world are grouped under the title “Africa, Americas and Oceania”, where only Traditional Arts are presented, though not explored in any great depth.

Inclusively does not mean the inclusion of Black Art; but rather to take an Afrocentric approach.  Afrocentricity# is the study of phenomena grounded in perspectives and epistemological constructs of peoples of African descent.  I am not implying that we remove all the other views of the Visual Arts, but rather to consider an Afrocentric view in order to provide a complete understanding of what it is to live in a pluralistic society.  What we need is a “multi-centric” approach.  Centricity locates Learners within their own cultural frame of reference so that they can connect socially, politically, ideologically, spiritually and emotionally to the learning process.


While Afrocentricity may well be criticized as being largely historical in nature, there is little in the way of the study of Afrocentric Visual works that are created in Post-Modern and Contemporary times that helps form the basis for a student of the visual arts for what might be her point of view.  Within the Afrocentric approach, there are many other cultures that are specific to particular contexts, e.g. an Afrocentric approach to Pedagogy in Botswana would be vastly different to one that is instituted in South Africa.  The South African perspective is not as easily homogenous as that of Botswana, and therefore requires the integration of other cultural influences such as the consideration of the IsiZulu, the English, the Afrikaans, and the IsiSwati cultural contributions amongst others.

The mission of Visual Art Education as a Teaching and Learning relationship therefore would be to construct learning conditions leading to full and equitable social participation.  The aim is for a visual literacy that accommodates aspects of a multiplicity of discourses.  In this way, the pedagogy takes into account our ethnolinguistically diverse cultural make-up. 

Writer / Tebogo Serobatse       Photography / Sfiso

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  1. There was a point where design [graphic] in the 2000's was influenced by African cultures ... there were alot of companies [but mostly white owned] that had ethnic names and logos ... and most of them were brown and baige.

  2. +

    I think it had something to do with the need to "unify" the country.
    I'm looking for a design education that would encourage to design in an afrocentric way; where we don't have to go outside of ourselves to imagine concepts in the African

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