Adam Habib goes to war in the name of Gerard Sekoto's legacy

Gerard Sekoto was born in Botshabelo, a German Lutheran Mission Station near Middelburg in the Transvaal, to Andreas Sekoto - a Priest and School Teacher, and his wife, Anne Sekoto (née Serote), in 1913.

The year was marked by the introduction of the ‘Natives Land Act’ –the first of the segregation legislations to be passed by the Parliament of South Africa. The series of measures taken by the government to exploit, alienate and degrade non-white South Africans that followed the Land Act drove Gerard Sekoto, and many other artists, musicians academics and activists, into self-imposed exile. Sekoto left in 1947 for Paris where he stayed until his death in 1993.

Pictures courtesy of www.gerardsekotofoundation.com

The Wits Art Museum is now home to a lot of his works. Their major collection of over 300 drawings and sketches from South Africa, Senegal and Paris produced by the artist between the 1940s and 1980s.

It was purchased and repatriated from France by the Sowetan Newspaper and has been housed at Wits University since 1989. In 2010 the collection was formally donated to WAM.

But last Thursday Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Adam Habib called Redi Tlhabi on air claiming that a meeting between the Gerard Sekoto Foundation with the Minister (a meeting Habib had flown back to South Africa for while on holiday to attend) had been cancelled via text message 10 minutes before it was due to begin, without proper explanation.

Here's the call...

I find it a shocking level of unaccountability by a Senior Minister. This is not how you behave with the business of the country!

Prod Adam Habib

Sekoto is definitely our own Picasso and there's no way then, that you can have such a treasure, such a heritage - lying away - and not known in South Africa.

Minister Nathi Mthethwa

Having heard of the call, Minister Nathi Mthethwa sought right of reply - which Redi granted on the first possible show.

Mthethwa was quick to point out that the meeting was intended to be a one on one between Themba Wakashe, the chairman of the Gerard Sekoto Foundation and himself and that he didn't know who would have given a cabinet meeting as a reason for the cancellation.

In his response on the same show, Prof Habib reitterated how important the opportunity of a meeting with the Minister is for the Foundation Board... that it would potentially open doors for the archive of the Gerard Sekoto Foundation to become widely accessible to learners - for his works to be formally studied.

It's important to say that this is not about a silly meeting, it's important to say this is about the Sekoto legacy... this is an important legacy that all of us agree on.

Prof Adam Habib

Quite clearly, this is one matter which is at the centre of who we are as a nation and how we've evolved - especially in this sector of arts, culture... and of heritage.

Minister Nathi Mthethwa

Yes we can memoriablise Sekoto through street naming, but the best way to do so is to make sure his legacy carries through from generation to generation.

Prof Adam Habib

Listen to Redi Tlhabi's full conversation with Minister Mthethwa and Professor Habib...

George Hallett's portrait of Gerard Sekoto in front of his painting Homage to Steve Biko, Paris, 1988.

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