Blue Head, 1960 signed 'G. Sekoto' and dated '1960' oil on canvas laid to board 61 x 45.8 cm. (24 x 18 in.)
Provenance: Gainsborough Galleries, Johannesburg, October 1961. A private collection.
Literature: La Vie Africaine, pub. Paris, April 1961, illus. pg. 25.
In 1960 Sekoto made a portrait drawing of Miriam Makeba, who had just arrived in New York as the lead role in the musical production 'King Kong', Makeba was interviewed and featured in the February 1960 Time magazine.
It is not known if the "Blue Head" series of portraits which were commenced in 1960 were partly inspired by Sekoto's awareness of Makeba's instant fame, but certainly his desire to portray people of African origin with innate dignity and beauty is clearly stated by him to Barbara Lindop in a series of letters during the 1980's. This particular Blue period lasted until 1965 and forms a coherent and identifiable stylistic body of work.
However Sekoto was always a distinguished portraitist and some of his finest portraits date as early as 1940 right up to his old age in 1987. His deeply felt sense of humanity and awareness thereof relates to the African philosophical tenet of Ubuntu - loosely translated as Man is Man because of Man.
The illustrious author and humanitarian Ezekiel Mphahlele bought one of the "Blue Head" portraits in Paris in the mid 1960's during his exile. Mphahlele refers to the "Blue Head" in his autobiography Africa my Music and describes the iconic value this painting held for him as he endured exile and its miseries.
The current oil is the earliest known work from this series and therefore can be considered as the template on which others were based. It was at the Gainsborough Galleries in Johannesburg that Sekoto first exhibited work in 1939.
We are grateful to Barbara Lindop for her assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry.