The Gerard Sekoto Foundation will be raising awareness of his work by selling limited-edition prints at Saturday’s SAMRO Overseas Scholarships finals, where two of his compositions will also be performed. 

The exhibition and sale of highly collectable Sekoto prints and posters will take place at Johannesburg’s Linder Auditorium on Saturday, 29 August 2015 from 6pm. 

It will continue the fruitful partnership between the SAMRO Foundation and the Gerard Sekoto Foundation – two non-profit bodies devoted to preserving and promoting South Africa’s cultural heritage and fostering arts education. 

For the second year running, two jazz compositions by the late Sekoto – a pioneer of black South African contemporary art who was a gifted songwriter and multi-instrumentalist – will be performed live during the final round of the illustrious competition for young singers. 

In addition, to celebrate the Sekoto Foundation’s association with the SAMRO Foundation, a selection of high-quality special-edition Sekoto prints will be for sale at a nominal price for art lovers who may not be able to acquire a prized Sekoto original.

High-quality single prints, on fine canvas, of 16 of Sekoto’s most striking portraits will be available on the evening, making them highly desirable as well as collectable. Six of his drawings will also be on offer, printed on Fabriano fine art paper, as well as 200 posters of his famous painting ‘The Girl with an Orange’, printed and numbered on linen. The prints will be priced at R1500 each. 

“Sekoto was an amazing portrait painter,” explains Barbara Lindop, a member of the Sekoto Foundation’s board of trustees. 

“These prints will span a range of his portrait subject matter, from Sophiatown and District Six to his life in exile in Paris and his self-portraits. The latter are very poignant, showing his transition from a confident young man to a semi-broken man,” says Lindop. 

“The prints will each be marked 1/1 to indicate they are part of a special limited edition, but will be very reasonably priced.” 

Other commemorative items that will be available on the evening include the sought-after catalogues from Sekoto’s 2013 centennial exhibition at the Wits Art Museum and copies of his 1947 children’s book, ‘Shorty and Billy Boy: A Tale of Two Naughty Dogs’, published by Jacana. It tells of two rambunctious township dogs and also features his original illustrations. CDs of emerging musicians singing 13 of his original compositions will also be on sale. 

The SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition is an annual contest that awards two R170 000 scholarships to young musicians, and rotates on a four-yearly cycle between singers, instrumentalists, keyboard players and composers. 

This year’s contest will see 12 singers (six in the Western Art Music genre, and six jazz vocalists) battling it out in the intermediate round on 27 August 2015. A panel of adjudicators will then select two candidates in each genre to perform prescribed works and their own selection of repertoire during the final round on 29 August 2015. 

During the course of the evening, the Tshwane of University of Technology Big Band, under the direction of Louis Drummond van Rensburg, will perform two original Sekoto compositions – ‘Igoli’ and ‘Africa’ – accompanied by Sean Jacobs on vocals. They have been arranged for big band by previous scholarship winner James Bassingthwaighte. 

“This is very exciting for the Sekoto Foundation, and will help people realise that Sekoto was truly a renaissance figure – a modern artist but also a poet who wrote amazing music,” says Lindop. She said Sekoto made two studio recordings while in Paris in 1956, and had a “milk and honey” voice. 

“Music was a very personal thing for him, but also a matter of survival during his exile in Paris, where he had to play in bars to eke out a living. The lyrics speak of a homesick man using his every talent to survive in a foreign country.” 

The Sekoto Foundation has donated Sekoto’s original scores to the SAMRO Foundation’s Music Archive, where they are held in trust, in a partnership aimed at preserving and popularising his musical oeuvre. Altogether, he composed almost 30 original songs.

Says André le Roux, managing director of the SAMRO Foundation: “Gerard Sekoto was a towering figure, an icon of creative expression, not just in the visual arts but also in music and literature. We are honoured that his original music works have been entrusted to our archive for safekeeping, and we hope to further develop awareness of his musical genius and honour his legacy in the future. 

“Our partnership with the Sekoto Foundation links closely with this year’s scholarships theme of the National Development Plan vision statement, which formed the basis for the commissioned works our semi-finalists and finalists will be singing. The NDP preamble, written by Prof Njabulo Ndebele and Antjie Krog, paints a futuristic picture of the kind of South Africa someone like Sekoto would have loved to live in,” Le Roux adds. 

The Sekoto prints and posters that will be for sale on Saturday night may be previewed on the SAMRO Foundation Facebook page – or contact Naseema Yusuf at 011 712 8000 for more details. Payment is by credit card only and no works will be pre-sold.