“The Black Christ” limited life-size reprints to help funds foundation for struggling artists

SPIRIT OF STRUGGLE ARTIST LIVES ON THROUGH BLACK CHRIST

 

Ronald Harrison, famous as a struggle artist and specifically for painting the Black Christ and the Spirit of Chief Albert Luthuli Arts
Collection
, gave his blessing and exclusive rights to the Spirit of Africa
Arts Foundation, shortly before his tragic death on 29 June 2011, to do a
limited once off edition of 21 full sized reproduction of South Africa’s most
famous political artwork, The Black Christ.

“It was Uncle Ronnie’s wish that we do a special once off limited reprint edition to
celebrate the 50th anniversary of his painting. It was also his wish
that a percentage of the proceeds be used to motivate young disadvantaged
artists and to help them achieve their dreams. We want to ensure that this wish
is fulfilled and that his legacy as an arts activist live on forever” said
Yusuf Ganief, CEO of the Spirit of Africa Arts Foundation.

In 2006 Yusuf Ganief as then CEO of the Cape Town Festival selected the Spirit of Chief Albert Luthuli Arts Collection
as the festival’s visual arts annual highlight. The Black Christ painting was
then taken out of the SA National Gallery for the first time and exhibited at
the St Georges Cathedral alongside the Luthuli Arts Collection.

The historical painting captures on canvas the former African National Congress
leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner of 1960, Chief Albert Luthuli, being
crucified by former Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd and his Justice Minister
John Vorster who later became Prime Minister. The oil painting in 1961 was
considered blasphemous and subversive by the South African government who tried
to have it destroyed.

“The Black Christ was not only one of the biggest tributes to my
father’s role as leader of his people at the time but it also reflected his
spirit of non violent resistance and the symbolic crucifixion of a nation. I am
thrilled that a limited edition will be made available soon so that more people
can be reminded of the kind of sacrifices that were made to ensure the freedom
that we as South Africans enjoy today. We will support this initiative and urge
other organizations to join us.” said Dr Albertina Luthuli, daughter of the
late Chief Albert Luthuli.

The painting has an extraordinary history and in 1962 was smuggled out
of South Africa by anti-apartheid activists who handed it over to John Collins,
a Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. After initially being exhibited in
the cathedral it later toured the United Kingdom and Europe where it raised
millions for the victims of apartheid

When the South African authorities realised The Black Christ had left the country, they arrested Ronald
Harrison and repeatedly interrogated and tortured him.

“Uncle Ron suffered the most severe humiliation and
interrogation over a period of seven days and confirmed that everything they
said about those horrendous Nazi-style tactics was true. One could sense it was
too humiliating for him to talk about.” commented Yusuf Ganief

The Black Christ disappeared for 30 years, until Julius Baker, a
South African ex-communist who was in exile in London, saw an appeal for the
painting in a newspaper, and realised it was the same picture that was
gathering dust in his basement.

One of the most remarkable twists of fate was that although every
other house in the street where Mr. Baker lived was flooded by heavy rain, the
Black Christ remained undamaged. In an earlier interview Mr. Harrison stated
his belief that it was divine providence that saved the painting and was
stunned and overjoyed when he heard the painting had been found again, feeling
like a father when he saw the prodigal son again.

The painting was returned to South Africa in 1997 and is now permanently
housed and displayed in the South African National Gallery as a national
treasure.

“It was Boo-boo’s wish, as Ronald Harrison was affectionately known to close
family, that we celebrate the Black
Christ’s
golden 50 year anniversary. He always spoke about his dream to
start a foundation to support struggling artists and therefore we fully support
this initiative by the Spirit of Africa Arts Foundation to offer a limited
edition of 21 life size reprints (7 feet high) to celebrate its 50th anniversary
and raise the necessary funding for the foundation.” said Desiree Phillips,
niece and sole beneficiary of Ronald Harrison.

For more information interested parties can contact
Edwin Arrison on earrison78@telkomsa.net

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