CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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FRESCHI, Federico
From Volksargitektuur to Pretoria Regionalism: The Imagined Landscape of the Nation in Afrikaner Nationalist Architecture, 1936-1976

Session 11 Landscape and Spectacle

University of Johannesburg


Much of the early rhetoric of Afrikaner nationalism was premised on an imagined identification with the land, and the ostensibly inalienable right to ownership and the subsequent imposition of order and control. In architectural terms this was first expressed in the 1930s by the use of regional materials and African decorative motifs in order to articulate the notion of an authentic Afrikaner identity rooted in Africa. However, between 1948, when the Afrikaner Nationalist government came to power, and the Soweto Uprisings of 1976, which seriously destabilized it, the architectural language associated with Afrikaner Nationalism underwent a pronounced shift from a backward looking, blood-and-soil regionalism to a sophisticated, internationalist rhetoric that was more in tune with the aspirations of a modern nation state. The implicit rhetoric of the land nonetheless seemed to remain, although its visual points of reference now shift to a much broader horizon, namely South America.In this paper I explore the extent to which questions of modernity, landscape and nationalism are intertwined in this changing rhetoric. Clearly, the self-conscious embrace of regionalist modernity is more than merely a response to the apartheid government’s programme of modernization and urbanization: it is also linked implicitly to the construction of a particular imaginary of Afrikaner nationhood. 

FRESCHI, Federico

Federico Freschi, BA Fine Arts (Wits), BA Hons History of Art (UCT), PhD History of Art (Wits)

Federico Freschi is Executive Dean and Full Professor in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg. His research focuses on South African modern art and architecture, with a particular interest first in the political iconography of public buildings, and second in the construction of the canon of modern South African art, and more recently in how the art market is implicated in this.  He has published a number of scholarly papers and book chapters and edited books on these and other subjects, and is frequently invited to speak as a guest lecturer and/or panellist in national and international forums.  He recently co-curated the exhibition Henri Matisse: Rhythm and Meaning at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg, the first wide-ranging exhibition of Matisse’s work on the African continent.

Prof Freschi is the President (ex-officio) of SAVAH (South African Visual Arts Historians), a Vice-President on the Board of CIHA (the Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art), a member of the editorial board of De Arte, a member of the advisory committee of Forum Kunst und Markt (TechnischeUniversität Berlin), a member of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association, and was formerly a member of the International Committee of the College Art Association.