Departure lounge ramblings on music, places, climate change and stuff outdoors

Ruminations on South African art (in the Coach & Horses)

After months of nearly no blogging activity it felt wrong to get going again with a piece about the joy of being in my favourite pub on a Sunday. But as I came here following a quick perusal of the British Museum’s South Africa: art of a nation exhibition, I reckon I can throw in a few pseudo-intellectual observations to make it alright. 

So where to begin? If my fellow Sunday drinkers weren’t arguing about the relative merits of Manchester and Liverpool (a very London conversation), I’d tell them that according to the apartheid regime art only began in South Africa when European settlers arrived. Before that the country was apparently “empty”. Inconveniently, however, archeologists keep finding some of the earliest examples of human painting and sculpture in the region.

Creating art that drew on indigenous cultural history thus became an act of political defiance against racist rule. I particularly liked the waistcost made of glass beads – a beautiful way of mocking the requirement to adopt European dress codes.

Post-1990, the central figures in South Africa’s coat of arms are based on 30,000 year old rock art. 

Back in the Coach and Horses the colours are all a bit duller, as my fellow Brits move comfortably into their winter greys. The wood panelling and the warm golden ales being supped are the only nod to the glorious autumnal display outside.

I’m hoping one of the old blokes who likes to knock out a few tunes on the battered old piano will turn up. But I reckon I’ll be heading home for a Sunday veggie roast and David Attenborough before the singing gets started.

Nevermind, it’s nice to be back here, if only for half an hour. Markontour’s travel  schedule means I spend more time in my favourite Brooklyn hostelry than here. But I’m pretty confident not much will have changed by the time I retire from globe-trotting, and if the reward for cultural enlightenment is a trip to the Coach and Horses, then I might one day amass the insight to be able to write a proper blog about the British Museum!

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