Lot 49
  • 49

GAVIN JANTJES | Amaxesha Wesikolo ne Sintsuku (School Days and Nights)

25,000 - 35,000 GBP
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  • Gavin Jantjes
  • Amaxesha Wesikolo ne Sintsuku (School Days and Nights)
  • signed and dated 1977 (on the reverse) 
  • oil on canvas
  • 150 by 150cm., 59 by 59in.


London, Edward Totah Gallery, 1982
Bristol, Arnolfini Gallery, Prophecy and Vision, 1982
London, The Hayward Gallery, The Others Story, 1989
Cape Town, The South African National Gallery, Strengths and Convictions, 2010; Oslo, Nobel Peace Center, 2010


Minority Arts Advisory Service Magazine, Vol. 2, London, 1982  
Okwui Enwezor, Chika Okeke-Agulu, Contemporary African Art Since 1980, Bologna, 2009, illustrated in colour p.59


Please note that this work is stretched but unframed. There appears to be very minor wear to the corners of the works, only visible upon close inspection. Inspection under UV light reveals no signs of restoration or repair. Overall, the work appears to be in very good original condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Amaxesha Wesikolo ne Sintsuku (School Days and Nights) is a visually striking and culturally significant work by revered South African artist, Gavin Jantjes. The work references the 16th of June 1976 Soweto Uprising, a series of protests led by black school children in response to the language of Afrikaans being made compulsory alongside English in schools. Resulting in the death of hundreds of protesters, this date was seen by many as a symbol of resistance against the atrocity of the apartheid government. Today, it is designated Youth Day, celebrating South Africa’s youth, and commemorating those who lost their lives. A graduate of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT, Jantjes spent much of his career in exile from his home country of South Africa, leaving in 1970 to study at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg and returning in 1994—over 20 years later—to participate in the democratic election of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president.

Indeed, much of Jantjes's artistic practice is undoubtedly shaped by his time spent in exile, the artist would spend from 1982-1998 in the UK before moving to his current home of Oslo in 1998. Composed using a combination of primary shapes and hues of primary colour; this seminal work is as much an ode to the death of the many lives lost at the hands of the apartheid regime as it is to the death of the regime itself. An imposing yellow cone of light illuminates the stage for its narrative. Four figures, some of which are a product of Jantjes's imagination and others are taken from photographs, are caught in the ellipse of this spotlight. They act out a seemingly grave scene as the front three red figures—appearing to embody the protesting Soweto school children who were killed by state police—fall to the ground and hurry away in fear. At the top of the composition, a figure moves out of the light and into a darker space.

As the scene unfolds within two realities: the light and the dark, indoors and outdoors, Jantjes confronts the viewer with a growing sense of anxiety and intrigue for what is to come. The artist mirrors the emotions of a people as they fought and persisted in the face of uncertainty for a free and democratic South Africa.

Jantjes's work has been exhibited extensively and can be found in the collections of several renowned institutions such as the Tate, the V&A Museum, the National Museum of African Art Smithsonian, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the South African National Gallery Cape Town, the Hermitage Museum, Gothenburg Art Museum, Henie Onstad Art Center, as well as numerous prominent private and corporate collections. The artist has also received several commissions from the United Nations Refugee Council and the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid. During his time spent in the UK, Jantjes served as a trustee of the Tate as well as the Whitechapel and Serpentine Galleries and was responsible for the Arts Council of England’s national policy on cultural diversity. In 2018, Jantjes will also be taking part in the 13th edition of the Biennial of Contemporary African Art, Dak’Art, led by Artistic Director, Simon Njami.

With numerous other positions under his belt and having written essays on artists such as Marlene Dumas and Nicholas Hlobo, Jantjes published ‘Visual Century: South African Art in Context 1907-2007 Vol I-IV’, a multi volume publication aimed at contextualizing the role of South African artistic production within the country’s broader cultural identity.