The object of this study is to establish a general historical pattern of artistic life in South West Africa, with emphasis on the fine arts. The development of the fine arts in our country progresses at more or less the same slow pace as that encountered in other young countries. Local development of the arts may be subdivided into three clearly demarcated periods, each of which is dealt with in a separate chapter in the study.
The first period commences with the foundation of the colony known as “Deutsch-Südwestafrika” (German South West Africa) in 1884 and the permanent settlement of a white civilization in that territory, The need for cultural expression was felt at an early stage already and the desire to apply the cultural standards of the continent of Europe was strongly present among a large proportion of the colonists. Thus the foundation stones were laid for the artistic life, on which building could be continued in the later periods. The second period was ushered in by the First World War which radically changed the political, as well as the social position of South West Africa. It put an end to German colonial rule and the territory became a mandate under the control of the South African Government. After the war the large-scale repatriation of Germans from South West Africa to Germany, and the emigration of a considerable number of South Africans to the territory, placed the German population far in the minority. Nevertheless the Germans still maintained the leadership in the field of art. The drought of the twenties and the subsequent depression restricted the progress of the arts, however. During the thirties the settlement of a number of prominent painters, including J. Voigts, Hermann Korrr and Adolph Jentsch, successfully stimulated the artistic activities and interest taken in art for a number of years. The political unrest that preceded the Second World War, and the subsequent outbreak of the war in 1939, disrupted this process of development and brought it to a complete stop. After the war the third period commences, characterized by greater co-operation between the three white language groups in South West Africa 2nd closer relations with South Africa. The economic revival resulting therefrom was beneficial to the general progress experienced in the field of art. The German sector of the population still played the dominant role in cultural life, which is clearly manifested by the fact that with a single exception in the person of Banie van der Merwe, all the important local artists were of German extraction, counting among their numbers men like Adolph Jentsch and Fritz Krampe. This gives South West African art a distinctly German character contrasting with that of South Africa, which could draw influences from various cultures. Closer collaboration with South Africa in the field_ of art gradually broke the isolation to which local painters had hitherto been subjected. The S.A.A.A. (S.W.A.) (South African Association: of Arts (S.W.A.) established as a branch of the S.A.A.A. in 1947, constituted a valuable contribution irr this connection. It created for South West African painters an opportunity to exhibit outside the borders of the territory and thus to receive ever more recognition there. At the same time the S.A.A.A. (S.W.A.) activated local artistic life so much that it has over the past decade progressed at an unprecedented rate. The continuous text is followed by a catalogue of South West African painters, with short explanatory biographical notes comprised in a fourth chapter. The development of art in South West Africa has clearly reached a point where the artists are now closely bound together in a purposeful local organisation which can only be to the benefit of general future development.