Daniel Magaziner’s latest book, The Art of Life in South Africa (Ohio University Press, 2016, and UKZN Press, 2017), is a welcome addition to...

Daniel Magaziner’s latest book, The Art of Life in South Africa (Ohio University Press, 2016, and UKZN Press, 2017), is a welcome addition to the intellectual history of South Africa. Rich in color images and documentary history, The Art of Life tells the story of African art in white apartheid South Africa, juxtaposing the beauty of an ordinary life well lived, against the random cruelty of the apartheid state.

The book follows the story of the Ndaleni Art School in modern-day KwaZulu-Natal from 1952 until its closing in 1981. The school was set up to teach the art teachers of the Bantu education system, but in doing so, it opened up the student’s lives to more complex discussions of creativity, beauty and resilience. Magaziner sets up the tale by spinning the individual lives against the opposing pressures of both the apartheid state and the black consciousness movement. On the one side, rigid oppression, and on the other, the push to fight apartheid or be deemed a collaborator.

The individual stories of former Ndaleni students force the reader to see beyond the black and white of these opposing narratives. The people profiled chose to lead fulfilled lives, not because they were defying apartheid, but because their only choice was to simply live. The book is, at its heart, a human story, set against the backdrop of apartheid.


Erin Freas-Smith, Ph.D can be reached at efreassmith@gmail.com.

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