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Issue 04

Gert Swart: Nkosi

Craig G. Bartholomew

This extract from Gert Swart’s 1997 Tatham Gallery exhibition catalogue Contemplation was posted in an ArtWay Visual Meditation February 4, 2018 (

For most South Africans the apartheid era was one of unrelenting dusk. Hope was a fragile commodity. Paradoxically the anthem of liberation was one of great hope: “Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika,” a Christian hymn calling for God to bless Africa amidst the pain and struggle. Fragile hope amidst terrible pain, it is powerfully evoked in Gert’s Nkosi. The young vulnerable bird is wearied and almost overwhelmed by the obstacles to its normal growth and development. The pathos is tangible. The head is bowed beneath the weight of the struggle and yet it is slightly turned upwards as if to refuse to relinquish the possibility of redemption. Few works capture so integrally the terrible juxtaposition of pain and hope in human (note the hands) experience.