The Artist in the Garden – The Quest for Moses Tladi by Angela Read Lloyd

01 Oct 2009
The Artist in the Garden

Moses Tladi was the first black artist to exhibit at the SA National Gallery in Cape Town, in 1931. A gardener in Johannesburg during the 1930’s Tladi achieved a country-wide reputation as an outstanding landscape painter. He served his country during the Second World War, but continued to paint until the tragic events of 1956 which led to his death three years later.

Told as a memoir, this book re-discovers the life and work of a remarkable South African artist.

Foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Introduction by Hayden Proud, SA National Gallery.

Date of Publication: October/November 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9802609-7-7
Publisher: Publishing Print Matters

Angela Read Lloyd on the South African National Gallery’s 2015 exhibit Moses Tladi UNEARTHED, which was based on her book, The Artist in the Garden, The Quest for Moses Tladi:

The book was launched in the SA National Gallery in October 2009, and there was later, in 2010, a small exhibition and Private View at South Africa House in London. I have lectured and written extensively about Tladi, most recently in the American art journal NKA, published jointly by Duke and Cornell universities.

I had always hoped for an exhibition in the SA National Gallery, and now thanks to the generosity of the UCT Mellon Foundation this “dream” is coming true. Iziko has been very supportive of the project, and the exhibition, which is curated by the brilliant young curator Andrea Lewis, will be most distinguished and very beautiful. It includes a video with interviews, and the display of works by other artists who were working at the same time as Tladi, in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Three young curatorship students from UCT have been working as interns on the project.

Tladi had a flourishing reputation as an artist during the 1930’s. He served during the Second World War, and later lived on a freehold smallholding outside Johannesburg in the area known as Kensington B – now Bryanston. John Konakeefe Mohl was his friend and admirer – they used to sketch and paint landscapes together. In 1956, during the “urban removals” Tladi was brutally deprived of his home by the authorities, and forcibly moved to what became Soweto. He built a house there, but never painted again. This destruction of his life broke his spirit – he died in 1959, aged only 56. And his reputation sank into obscurity – a tragoc fate for this fine artist and noble human being.

Tladi’s younger daughter, Mmapula Tladi Small, who lives in London, came out to South Africa especially to be a key speaker at the opening of the exhibition – a poignant moment for the family.

My hope has always been to re-establish Tladi as one of this country’s most distinguished landscape painters. His tragic early death has meant that he has left a small body of work, but work of a quality that suggests that had he lived, he would have continued to explore his true vocation.”