Anton van Wouw was the sculptor of the peoples of South Africa par excellence
. Van Wouw was born in Driebergen, Holland in 1862, moving to Pretoria at the age of 28. Despite having taken classes in art at the Rotterdam Academy, it was some time before van Wouw gained commissions in South Africa, a country in which there were few opportunities for sculptors at the time. Van Wouw is today regarded as being the father of South African sculpture. Some of his most celebrated pieces are his sensitive depictions of the indigenous peoples of South Africa: Shangaan is one his defining models. According to Duffey, the model shows "a typical supplicatory posture and it attests to Van Wouw's keen observation of the various postures of the African miner in early Johannesburg... Conspicuous in the best Italian castings are the distinctness of the frown on the forehead, the protruding mouth, the exact lines of the armband, the well-modelled right thumb and ears and the contrast between the dark patina of the hair on the head and the light brown patina of the rest of the body." The present bronze is a fine cast by the Roman Massa foundry.
Pierneef Van Wou: Paintings and Sculptures by two South African Masters, exh. cat. Rembrandt van Rijn Foundation, Johannesburg, 1980, no. 50; A.E. Duffey, Anton van Wouw: The Smaller Works, Pretoria, 2008, p. 63