Modern & Contemporary African Art

Modern & Contemporary African Art

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 81. Portrait of a Woman .

Gerard Sekoto

Portrait of a Woman

Lot Closed

March 21, 04:20 PM GMT


18,000 - 24,000 GBP

Lot Details


Gerard Sekoto

South African


Portrait of a Woman

signed and dated 1966 (lower right)

gouache on paper

54.5 by 37.3cm., 21½ by 14¾in.

framed: 73 by 56cm., 28¾ by 22in.

Private Collection, Senegal, acquired directly from the artist

Acquired from the above by the present owner

"My looser and freer lines were aroused during my stay in Senegal...but the slow, elegant movement of the people was mostly fairy-like to me… These are real examples of Senegal women - stately, aristocratic, slender and tall. They walk as though they have no concern at all with their surrounding, yet going on their way to somewhere. This is already being felt from youth. The little girls have by nature that way of being relaxed in the gestures of their limbs, so graceful without even being aware of it."


This elegant portrait exemplifies a body of work created by important South African painter, Gerard Sekoto, as a result of visiting the West African national of Senegal in 1966. Sekoto's Senegalese pictures showcase the respect and admiration the artist felt for both the country and its people as well as mark the artist's first return to his home continent. After leaving South Africa in exile in 1947, Sekoto did not return to Africa for nearly 20 years. Being back in Africa re-invigorated Sekoto , who had long drawn on his fading and increasingly nostalgic memories of South Africa. Senegal - its people and culture - would provide Sekoto with new inspiration for several years and push him to produce some of his most capturing and beloved portraits.

Sekoto travelled to Senegal to participate in the First Festival of Negro Arts at the invitation of Léopold Sédar Senghor, the first President of Senegal. The two had met in Paris as active members of the pan-African movement and proponents of the philosophy of Negritude. In 1945, Senghor had been elected to the French National Assembly to represent Senegal and Mauritania, and in 1947, the year Sekoto moved to Paris, he established Presence Africaine, a journal that published African authors including Sekoto, who contributed the article A South African Artist in 1957. The Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres took place in Dakar, Senegal, and brought together thousands of artists, musicians, and writers from across Africa and its diaspora, including André Malraux, Aimé Césaire, Duke Ellington and Josephine Baker amongst others. In the context of decolonization across Africa and the civil rights movement in the United States, this festival aimed to recognise and celebrate black artists and writers.

Sekoto was excited to be back in Africa after an absence of twenty years. He was particularly taken with the freedom with which the Senegalese lived and their post-colonial optimism, which was in stark contrast to his previous African experience, as a black man in South Africa in the years leading to apartheid. Ironically, it was during his time in Senegal that the South African government revoked his passport, forcing him into mandatory and permanent exile.


Lindop, Gerard Sekoto, Randburg, 1988, pp.231-232