Sekoto, Gerard (1913 – 1993)
Gerard Sekoto was born at the Lutheran Mission Station in Botshabelo near Middelburg in the Eastern
Transvaal. Being the son of a missionary he was introduced to music at a young age. He studied at
the Diocesan Teachers Training College in Pietersburg and on graduating taught at Khaiso Secondary
School for 4 years. During this time he entered an art competition organized by Fort Hare University in
which he came second, George Pemba won the competition.
In 1938 he moved to Johannesburg to pursue a career as an artist. He held his first solo exhibition in
1939. In 1940 Johannesburg Art Gallery purchased one of his works, it was the first painting by a black
artist to enter a museum collection. In 1942 he moved to District 6 in Cape Town and then in 1945 he
moved to Pretoria.
In 1947 he left for Paris under a self-imposed exile. At first it was hard and he was employed as a pianist
for a nightclub. Between 1956-1960 he composed 29 songs recalling the loneliness of exile. In 1966
he visited Senegal for a year. In the 1970’s Gerard Sekoto’s works became politically motivated due to
the apartheid in South Africa. In 1989 the Johannesburg Art Gallery honored him with a retrospective
exhibition and the University of Witwatersrand with an honorary doctorate.
He died on 20 March 1993 at a retirement home outside Paris.
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