Mother and Child by Sydney Kumalo (1935 - 1988)
Mother and Child, Unknown, bronze, 650 x 250 x 340 mm

Sydney Kumalo (1935 - 1988)



About the artwork


Kumalo’s bronze sculpture Mother and Child reflects a combination of western and classical African stylistic influences. His work contains the monumentality and simplicity of form, constantly shifting between abstraction and figuration in search for mystical depth.



He was inspired by Henry Moore, Mario Marini, German Expressionism as well as sculptural traditions of West and Central Africa, retaining much of the formal aesthetic qualities of classical African sculpture. He did not employ African artistic traditions in search for his roots, but through modern western appropriation thereof.



About Kumalo’s art


Kumalo successfully challenged the stereotypes from the times he was born in. He was in many ways the doyen of South African ‘Black’ art. During his lifetime he was an important influence especially on younger African sculptors, by whom he was greatly respected.



Kumalo’s background


Sydney Kumalo was born in Sophiatown, Johannesburg, in 1935. He was one of the very few black students who were able to graduate from art school during Apartheid. During the course of his career he increasingly drew upon long-standing African artistic traditions.


He studied under Cecil Skotnes and Eduardo Villa at the Polly street Centre during the 1950’s where he would teach and later formed part of the Amadlozi group with Skotnes, Cecily Sash, Villa and Egon Gunter. This group brought together five very different artistic temperaments with one thing in common: the conscious appropriation of African sculptural traditions. 


Active until 1964, the group advocated art with an African identity; though Kumalo, was its sole black member.





De Jager, E.J. 1992. Images of Man: Contemporary South African Black Art and Artists, Fort Hare University Press: Alice, 107-114.


Johans Borman Fine Arts. Sydney Kumalo. A Biography. [O] Avilable:

[Accesed on 27 December 2013]


Miles, E. 2004. Polly Street: The Story of an Art Centre, The Ampersand Foundation: Johannesburg, pp. 42, 47, 49, 58 to 60, and 92


Nel, K. 2005. Edoardo Villa: Creating an African Presence in Nel, E., Burroughs, E. and Von Maltitz, A. (eds.), Villa at 90, Jonathan Ball Publishing: Johannesburg and Cape Town, 121-147.


Sack, S. 1988. The Neglected Tradition: Towards a New History of South African Art (1930-1988), Johannesburg Art Gallery: Johannesburg, 107.