On Wednesday the 23rd of September 2015, Unearthed, an exhibition of the work of Moses Tladi, will open at the Iziko South African National Gallery. The exhibition is curated by Andrea Lewis, who has served as a mentor to three of the CCA’s Honours in Curatorship students (Nala Xaba, Philiswa Lila and Charis de Kock) who were involved as interns in the exhibition planning, for their student practicum.
This exhibition will be the first major exhibition of the work of Moses Tladi, a neglected artist in the South African canon. Moses Tladi was born in 1903 in the remote Sekhukhuneland, east of Pretoria. He was the son of a medicine-man who made a living by working in iron, and a mother who was a gifted potter. He spent his early childhood herding cattle in the striking hill-country around his birthplace. Moses’s parents became “believers” under the influence of the Berlin Missionary Society, and he was educated at the Lobenthal Mission, at ga Phaahla. Like many young men at the time, Tladi moved to the city in search of work. He was “discovered” by Herbert Read after he started painting with leftover house paint and a stick. Read introduced Tladi to the collector and philanthropist Howard Pim, who promoted Tladi at public exhibitions from 1929 onwards. His first appearance in Johannesburg in 1929 caused a sensation. During the 1930s, he achieved country-wide repute as an outstanding landscape painter in the international style. He is regarded as the first black artist to exhibit formally in South Africa, and was certainly the first black artist to exhibit at the South African National Gallery in 1931.Tladi served his country in the Second World War, but continued to paint until the tragic events of 1956, when he was forced to move out of his home. It was a time before apartheid’s Group Areas Act, so he had owned property in a Johannesburg suburb. However he and his family were forced to move to Soweto, where the allotted shack could not keep all the family’s possessions. Tladi continued to suffer neglect compared to his national exposure in the 1930s and died in 1959, a neglected artist.