'Raw light, Lemba' signed 'G. Sekoto' (lower left) and inscribed '3 Raw Light Lemba' (verso) oil on canvas laid to board 35 x 50.2cm (13 3/4 x 19 3/4in).
PROVENANCE: Sale, Bonhams London, December 2006, lot 569 Private collection
Barbara Lindop has dated the above work to 1945-47 and has also confirmed that the inscription on the reverse of the work is in Sekoto's hand.
In 1945 Sekoto moved from District Six, Cape Town to Eastwood, Pretoria where he stayed with his mother and stepfather. While based in Eastwood, Sekoto produced many of his most masterful, self-assured works. The present lot unites strong colour combinations reds and greens, bright foreground yellows and deep background blues with a sophisticated structure, dominated by a strong diagonal which draws the eye into the picture. However, the group of figures that lines the path interrupts the eye's easy passage. As a result, the viewer like the artist must alight on each individual in turn.
As is characteristic of many of Sekoto's group scenes, the individual features of each figure are not rendered in detail: rather, the dramatic interplay of the morning's "raw light" and the strong shadow it casts obscures many of the women's faces. The resulting effect is primarily psychological. Lining the path, the repeated forms of the township houses, echoed by the undulating lines of the wooden fence posts, reflect the rhythmic compositional notes which find full expression in works like Song of the pick.
Sekoto relates that Eastwood was very different from "the hectic life of District Six... At the new home I found myself much more relaxed to concentrate upon my work, without the many distractions and visits I had in the big city with its many sophisticated people. Here people were not too inquisitive about why you looked at them. Some would even be willing to pose." The current lot seems a case in point: certainly, the direct confrontation depicted in this painting is rare in Sekoto's oeuvre.
Lesley Spiro, who curated the first major retrospective of Sekoto's work in 1989, asserts: "The Eastwood period may represent the pinnacle of Sekoto's artistic achievement. It was a time when he pushed his understanding of colour and form to new heights, when he seemed to sharpen even further his already remarkable sense of mood and movement".
The inscription may refer to the Lemba people, an Afro-Judaic cultural group who live predominantly in the Limpopo province and in the township of Soweto, and trace their ancestry to ancient Judea.
We are grateful to Barbara Lindop for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. Lindop, Gerard Sekoto, (Randburg, 1988), p.25 L. Spiro, Gerard Sekoto: Unsevered Ties, (Johannesburg, 1989), p. 42