The Art of Life in South Africa

By Daniel Magaziner

“Daniel Magaziner tells a profoundly human story of the institutional and social constraints under which African artists operated and the different ways in which they sought to find a way to produce beauty in the midst of oppression.”

Frederick Cooper, author of Africa in the World: Capitalism, Empire, Nation-State

The Art of Life in South Africa is a richly suggestive and moving contribution to South African intellectual history. Weaving in a highly imaginative way the two concepts of life and art, Magaziner opens unique pathways for research in the historical sociology of the object-worlds South Africans invented, created and inhabited during the long twentieth-century. Written with extraordinary clarity and precision, this book will appeal to anyone curious about new trends in the historiography of culture.”

Achille Mbembe, author of Critique of Black Reason

The Art of Life in South Africa contributes to a global conversation about ‘art’ and ‘craft’at the same time as it challenges neat distinctions between center and periphery, metropole and margins. Art education provides rich terrain through which the entangled relations of modernity, subjectivity, and materiality can be explored. This book is as important for students of global modernism as it is for scholars of South African art, history and politics.”

Tamar Garb, author of Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography

The Art of Life is an impressive work that is sure to become a basic text in the field of African cultural history. Ndaleni will no longer be forgotten.”

African Studies Review

From 1952 to 1981, South Africa’s apartheid government ran an art school for the training of African art teachers at Indaleni, in what is today KwaZulu-Natal. The Art of Life in South Africa is the story of the students, teachers, art, and politics that circulated through a small school, housed in a remote former mission station. It is the story of a community that made its way through the travails of white supremacist South Africa and demonstrates how the art students and teachers made together became the art of their lives.

Daniel Magaziner radically reframes apartheid-era South African history. Against the dominant narrative of apartheid oppression and black resistance, as well as recent scholarship that explores violence, criminality, and the hopeless entanglements of the apartheid state, this book focuses instead on a small group’s efforts to fashion more fulfilling lives for its members and their community through the ironic medium of the apartheid-era school.

There is no book like this in South African historiography. Lushly illustrated and poetically written, it gives us fully formed lives that offer remarkable insights into the now clichéd experience of black life under segregation and apartheid.

Daniel Magaziner teaches South African and nineteenth- and twentieth-century African history at Yale University. He is the author of The Law and the Prophets: Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968–1977.



Retail price: $34.95, S.
Release date: Nov. 2016
92 illus. · 376 pages · 7 × 10 in.
Rights:World except SADC


Retail price: $99.95, S.
Release date: Nov. 2016
92 illus. · 376 pages · 7 × 10 in.
Rights:World except SADC


Release date: Nov. 2016
92 illus. · ≅ 376 pages
Rights: World

Additional Praise for The Art of Life in South Africa

“The Art of Life in South Africa is beautifully rendered, well researched, and tells an important, scarcely told story. Combining in exciting ways intellectual, cultural, and social historical approaches, Magaziner offers a meditation on what happens if we examine a past that is shaped by broader historical forces (in this case apartheid) but that cannot be reduced to them.”

Clifton Crais, author of The South Africa Reader: History, Culture, Politics

“In this beautifully written book, Dan Magaziner opens a small story to reveal expansive, deep questions. The Art of Life in South Africa offers an unexpected and transcendent intellectual history of African self-making and art practice.”

Julie Livingston, author of Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic

“The Art of Life in South Africa is an astonishing book, powerfully constructed, intricately researched, and gorgeously written. From the focused study of individual lives and practices that flourished in and around the Ndaleni art school, Magaziner extends the possibilities of a more democratic form of art history.”

David Doris, author of Vigilant Things: On Thieves, Yoruba Anti-Aesthetics, and the Strange Fates of Ordinary Objects in Nigeria (2012 Herskovits Award winner)