“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
“Ultimately, Magaziner reflects that approaching the history of complex and compromised communities like Ndaleni through the overarching nationalist frame of the South African liberation struggle does not allow enough space for difficult, nuanced, and fragile realities to surface.…Magaziner's carefully wrought study provides insights into the impetuses and negotiations, features and weaknesses, of a highly constrained, imbalanced, and charged setting.…The extended nature of the study does require a little stamina, but its achievement in being theoretically rich and sensitively argued more than sustains the reader. Its liberal incorporation of photographs (over a hundred), mostly of former students' artwork, not only vivifies the study, but is a valuable act of archival recuperation.”
Canadian Journal of History
“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 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.
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