n De Arte - The intersection of Christianity and politics in South African art : a comparative analysis of selected images since 1960, with emphasis on the post-apartheid era : research

Volume 2012, Issue 85
  • ISSN : 0004-3389



This article examines selected examples of art made in South Africa which employ Christian imagery for the purposes of engaging with political and social commentary. Works made during the apartheid era by Azaria Mbatha, Charles Nkosi and Paul Stopforth are discussed briefly and compared to the more critical approach found in post-apartheid works by Diane Victor, Conrad Botes and Wim Botha. Christian iconography is a useful communicative tool because it has permeated many cultures over centuries, and the meanings it carries are thus accessible to large numbers of people. Examples made during the apartheid regime in South Africa appear to adapt the Christian message to support a political agenda, while those made in the transitional phase (from the late 1980s) and after the dismantling of apartheid are more critical of both religious constructs and politics, and could be termed 'transgressive'. Working in light of Foucault's idea of an 'ontology of the present' I investigate the ways in which religious iconography has been implicated in the regulation of society, by revealing how subversive appropriations of Christian imagery expose these controls and offer a critique of mechanisms which produce normative 'truths'.

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