"The day we die
a soft breeze will wipe out
our footprints in the sand.
When the wind dies down,
who will tell the timelessness,
that once we walked this way
in the dawn of time?"
The IK Foundation Bushman Art Collection, is a collection of !Xu and Khwe folk art from the first generation of the Schmidtsdrift camp in the northern part of the Cape Province in South Africa. The collection comprises one hundred or so art works including linoleum cuts and gouache and oil paintings. The works, which are typical of this remarkable environment, have broken with tradition and are new and vibrant. The inspiration lies in yearning and despair, myth and novelty, colourfulness and subtle story telling – they are not an extension of primitive or primordial art. The traditions of ancient rock paintings of the Kalahari Desert were also still kept alive and painted by the San people up to about 100 years ago, so the question to ask is, has new ground been broken or has lost ground been reclaimed?
BUSHMEN – SAN
Bushmen was the name the European colonials used to describe the hunter-gatherer San people, whose ancestors are considered to have been the most ancient of African ethnic groups. For instance, in the 1770s, Anders Sparrman, the naturalist and Carl Linnaeus apostle, described the ‘Boshies-men’ in his travel journal from the Cape Colony in present-day South Africa as – a rather short and light skinned people.
!XU AND KHWE
In the 1990s, approximately 5 500 people from the !Xu and Khwe tribes moved from Angola and settled in Schmidtsdrift camp – a canvas town. An art centre was established in 1993 to help these alienated peoples. The intention was to fill a cultural and social vacuum and give substance and meaning to their shattered lives.
MODERN SAN ART
The first generation of modern San art immediately awoke great interest and there have been a number of exhibitions in South Africa, Asia, North America and Europe. The IK Foundation Bushman Art Collection is a collection of works from eight artists born between 1927 and 1960. The works were all produced between 1993 and 1995. As such it is more that a unique collection of international interest, it is also an important documentation of an aboriginal people! The exhibition is well suited to art galleries and museums of ethnography.