Cecil Skotnes (1926 - 2009)
The Order of Ikhamanga in
Profile of Cecil Skotnes
Cecil Skotnes was born in 1926 in East London. In 1950 he obtained the Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Witwatersrand. In 1952 he was appointed cultural officer at the Polly Street Center in Johannesburg.
Skotnes is an internationally-renowned artist who has exhibited his work to much acclaim in many countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Athens, Namibia, Israel, Germany and Italy. He contributed a three-colour woodcut for the Nobel Prize portfolio in honour of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Chief Albert Luthuli. He was awarded the Chamber of Mines Gold Medal in 1965, and South African Breweries Gold Medal in 1968. Skotnes is the recipient of three honorary doctorate degrees in recognition of his work, respectively from the Universities of Cape Town, Rhodes and Witwatersrand.
As teacher at the Polly Street Center, chairperson of Johannesburg ‘Bantu Music Festival’, President of the South African Council of Artists and later, founder member and trustee of the Community Arts Project in Cape Town, Skotnes has made a remarkable contribution to the development of black artists in South Africa.
In 1954, after the state clamped down on adult education for blacks, Skotnes initiated the first urban professional art school in South Africa.
Through Cecil Skotnes’ leadership and guidance under very trying times, scores of black artists received training and launched their professional careers at the Polly Street Center and at the Community Art Centre in Cape Town.