In this paper the sculpture of South African Venda artists Johannes Maswanganyi and his son, Collen Maswanganyi is investigated in order to find evidence regarding the character of South African art reception and the possibility of a communal South African identity more than a decade after the initial processes of political and cultural transformations started in South Africa in 1994. Through this case study it will be shown that that the reception of the artists’ work revealed leftovers of cultural separatist ideologies from before 1994 when South Africa was still under Nationalist regime and thus that arthistorical categorisation and definitions are conditional to the local socio-political context, that is, where, when and how artworks are produced and exhibited. In the attempt to demonstrate that audience often determines the status and meaning of artworks, aspects such as the character and content of the Maswanganyi sculptures; the concept of the exhibition; attendance; and recorded comments will be critically scrutinised. The argumentation will revolve around notions of cultural association with sculptural form; cultural abject in terms of classification; voice; authenticity; and authorship.
The article is a reworked version of a paper presented at the 2nd International conference on the arts in society, University of Kassel, Germany, 21 – 24 August 2007, that took place during the international art exhibition, Documenta 12