67
JUMP TO LOT
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Modern and Contemporary African Art

|
London

Ephraim Mojalefa Ngatane
1938 - 1971
RUGBY MATCH 
signed and dated 1968 (upper right)
oil on board
77.5 by 72cm., 30½ by 28½in.
Painted in 1968
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Acquired in South Africa by the present owner's parents, thence by direct descent

Catalogue Note

Born in Maseru, Lesotho in 1938, Ephraim Mojalefa Ngatane was known as the ‘Hogarth of the township’. Educated under the tutelage of Cecil Skotnes at the Polly Street Art Centre in Johannesburg, it soon became clear that Ngatane was one of the strongest and most dynamic artists to have ever come out of Johannesburg’s township community.  Coming of age during apartheid, Ngatane’s work focuses on this dark period in South African history and its effects on the black majority.  What separated the artist from his peers is his ability to communicate the hardships of township life whilst also managing to capture small moments of peace and happiness that seemed increasingly few and far between during one of the most violent and divisive periods in South African history.

The artist also became known as a prominent boxer and displayed a keen interest in sports and their role during the apartheid system. Rugby Match is a particularly interesting work as it highlights the parallels during that period between the hardships of being a black artist and the limitations placed on black athletes. Not only were South Africa’s national teams entirely composed of white players, the South African government went so far as to ban or discourage foreign black athletes from touring in South Africa. Segregation in sports, especially in Rugby, became a key point of contention both during apartheid and after the fall of apartheid in 1994. Using bold colours and highly gestural strokes, Ngatane manages to communicate both the physical intensity of rugby as well as the political significance of the sport within a highly fractured society.

Within his more expressive works such as Rugby Match, Ngatane tended to abstract his subjects to the point where he would need to create black grids over the top of his compositions, in order to formally hold them together. Ngatane’s grid is also used to suggest movement as it flows backward behind the figures, giving the illusion that they are falling forward onto the rugby ball.  Tragically, Ephraim Mojalefa Ngatane succumbed to tuberculosis in 1971 at the young age of 33.

Modern and Contemporary African Art

|
London