During the final decades of apartheid, visual artists in South African cities revolutionized the idea of community and developed novel forms of everyday resistance to government censorship, racial discrimination, and state violence. By situating their practice in geographic and aesthetic grey areas, South African artists — both black and white — defied official racial boundaries. They worked in multiracial, peripheral urban zones and with hybrid visual aesthetics. This period from 1976 to 1994 immediately predates the current international interest in South African art. But while setting the stage for the internationally recognized “post-apartheid” art that has followed, its history remains little known. This is the first book to narrate this crucial local story of modernist art in South Africa.
John Peffer is associate professor of African and contemporary art at Ramapo College. Peffer’s research has examined the historiography of African art history, art, and visual culture in South Africa during apartheid, and general issues of global modernity and human rights in art, photography, and visual culture. His essays have appeared in the journals Cabinet, Visual Anthropology Review, Third Text, African Arts, RES, Art Journal, Africultures, and Rethinking Marxism, and in the exhibition anthologies Looking Both Ways (Museum for African Art, 2003) and Through African Eyes (Detroit Institute of Arts, 2010). He was co-curator of “Translation/Seduction/Displacement: Post-Conceptual and Photographic Work by Artists from South Africa” (White Box, 2000) and was a founding editor of Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture. His book Art and the End of Apartheid was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2009 and was a finalist for the African Studies Association Melville Herskovits Book Award in 2010. Portraiture and Photography in Africa, a volume of essays he co-edited with Elisabeth Cameron, will be published in 2013 by Indiana University Press. He received his PhD in art history from Columbia University in 2002.