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Soweto School of Art Collection Documents History of Black Males During South African Apartheid Era


Morehouse is now the home of some of the most important historic art in South Africa.

The College is the recipient of 26 oil paintings and mixed media from the Soweto School of Art, courtesy of Martin Britz, a South African pastor and art collector who’s father was also an art collector and curator.

“Martin came to Morehouse to meet with President Robert M. Franklin ’75 in 2009 to discuss his desire to make this gift,” said Terry Mills, dean for Research and Sponsored Programs. “As part of the gift, I’m involved in editing what will eventually be two coffee table books on the Soweto School of Art. One will be on the broader Soweto school and the other will be about the 26 pieces of Soweto art that we received as a gift.”

The history of the Soweto School of Art is steeped in the journey of blacks in South Africa. But the Soweto School of Art isn’t an institution. It is a movement, like the Harlem or the Italian renaissance.

The art comes from a group of mostly black men who created pieces that chronicled their lives through apartheid, beginning in the 1940s.

“That’s the connection to Morehouse – because these are black men,” Mills said. “I don’t believe there is any other institution in the Western world that has a collection of this Soweto School of Art. It’s also a coup because, again, these artists are primarily black males, so what better place in the U.S. than Morehouse to have this representation.”

Morehouse unveiled the first 14 pieces the College during a reception on Dec. 2 in the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center before the 85th Annual Morehouse-Spelman Christmas Carol Concert. A permanent site for the collection hasn’t been determined yet.

Mills said the Soweto School of Art Collection joins the Purvis Young Collection as a valuable teaching tool as Morehouse continues to document the history of black males through art.

“When folks see this art, they will be impressed,” he said.

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