Skotnes celebrates the San in a book and an exhibition

17 November 2008

Unconquerable: Prof Pippa Skotnes brings paintings by George Stow and the San people to the public.

Professor Pippa Skotnes has paid tribute to George Stow and the San people with a book and an exhibition of their work.

Called Unconquerable Spirit, the book reproduces all Stow's paintings, as well as examples of the maps, drawings, notes and poems he produced.

Skotnes, director of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, arranged for the restoration and preservation of Stow's collection of copies of San rock paintings. She presents them as Stow's interpretations of the ideas that moved the San artists and, in part, as a product of the turbulent frontier wars and the end of the San way of life that Stow witnessed.

Stow arrived in South Africa in the mid 19th century and travelled more than two thousand miles on foot to create a record of the creative work of the San people, who he believed to be the only true aboriginal people of the country.

Skotnes said the Mellon Foundation-funded project, an initiative of her Centre for Curating the Archive, is a tribute to Stow and to the San people who both displayed an "unconquerable spirit".

Skotnes explains: "I wanted to place the collection in the public domain, both to recover Stow from his obscurity and to reveal some of the loveliness of the rock art of the San."

She said the book is also part of an ongoing project to publish all the material related to Lucy Lloyd, who bought the collection of copies of rock art after Stow's death in 1882.

The exhibition is at the Iziko South African Museum until February 2009.

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