Monday, 18 June 2007

The Black Christ -- A South African Icon

During the Cape Town Book Fair, Michael met with Ronald Harrison, painter of The Black Christ, a South African icon.

According to this October 1997 Dispatch Online article, written the day after the painting was displayed for the first time since it had been banned in 1962, Harrison "painted one of South Africa's most controversial art works 35 years ago -- a picture of the ANC's banned Chief Albert Luthuli as a crucified Christ flanked by two centurions. The Roman centurions bore the faces of then prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd, the man accredited with being the architect of apartheid, and his justice minister John Vorster. The Black Christ was first exhibited at St Luke's Church in Salt River in 1962, and was to impact on Harrison's life more than he could have imagined. He was arrested and Mr Vorster's censors banned the painting, deeming it sacrilegious and illegal to display."

Mr. Harrison has written a book, The Black Christ, A Journey to Freedom. You can read a review on his publisher's website, New Africa Books. Here's an excerpt:

"In the ordinary course of events, the painting would have been destroyed. Instead – in what the author sees as divine intervention – it was not confiscated, but was successfully hidden and smuggled abroad, where it played a key role in raising funds for victims of apartheid, including the Rivonia treason trialists. The miraculous recovery of the painting and its return to South Africa after more than 30 years – it is now held at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town – are part of the dramatic story of ‘The Black Christ'.


Alongside publication of the book, an extensive campaign is planned to take the painting around the country and to repeat its British and European tours of the 1960s, with the objective of raising funds for projects of the Luthuli Education Trust and other causes identified by the author. It is hoped that both the book and painting can help to meet the global challenges of racism and inhumanity through the multicultural, non–religious and compassionate approach exemplified by Christ. "

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i think that this book is an inspiration to South Africa as it teaches us to speak out and talk about democracy and discrimination.
I dearly thank you for writing this book and I hope you write many more.If you could,would you please send more of these books to Durban as many of my friends want to read them.thank you