The development of art in South Africa barely spans 100 years. Many artists
from Holland, England, Germany and France, together with their colleagues
in South Africa, helped to develop it to the present level. Only during
the 'fifties did local artists shake off the nineteenth-century traditions which
persisted and brought the local art scene more in line with developments in
Europe and the United States of America. From this time, South African art
became less dependent and more mature.
Fine art has a very definite social function. It satisfies a basic human need,
and in the more practical sense design forms an important part of the socioeconomic
structure of society as a whole. Art is an essential component of the
communications system of a society.
Art, viewed in this light, should be re-examined and seen as an indispensable
component of any educational system because of its ennobling and formative
influence on man.
Further, as a communications medium, art should have a more highly
rated position - as a vital element without which society in its present form
could not continue to function.
It is a fact that art is not accorded its rightful place in South Africa. An example
of this is its neglected position in the school situation and the general
lack of insight and interest shown by both the State and society.
It is part and parcel of the task of a Department of Fine Arts to endeavour
to surmount these shortcomings by definite action and leadership. For this
reason it is essential that this department and others sharing a common interest
(e.g. Art History and Cultural History), should come together to discuss
in depth the future and position of the arts. A subject that is no longer discussed
is a dead subject.