South Africa: 3 Million Years Of Art exhibition set for The British Museum

Ox-shaped snuffbox in the South Africa- 3 Million Years Of Art exhibition at The British MuseumThe next big exhibition to grace The British Museum will take us to the southern-most tip of the African content in South Africa: 3 Million Years Of Art. As you can probably guess from the name, it’s got a fairly significant timescale to cover, with the exhibition featuring works from the very earliest examples of artistic creativity on the planet to the contemporary art that is being created in South Africa in the modern era.

About the South Africa exhibition

Some of the earliest sculptures in history have been found in Southern Africa and there will be a good few of these on display in the exhibition. One of the objects is believed to be the oldest piece of art ever discovered, so there’s at least one big, ancient reason to get your tribal-print knickers in a twist about, or at least a little ruffled anyway, unless you’re a starch infused gas mask enthusiast.


In addition to the older pieces included in South Africa: 3 Million Years Of Art, it will also cover the periods in between, including colonial art from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, including the ox-shaped snuffbox pictured above from the 1800s. You’ll also get to see 19th century black South African art, with a variety of heritage behind the works, including Zulu, the Matabele, Sotho and Xhosa, who were under attack from the British colonialists at the time.

Getting closer to the modern day, there’s more dark History through art in the 20th century as artists responded to the despicable realities of Apartheid South Africa. Segregation, inequality and brutality came under the glare of artists that wanted to stand up to the institutionalised injustice and oppression, helping to pave the way for its eradication. A selection of these powerful artefacts will be on display too.

Finally, there’s room in the time-spanning exhibition to include the more positive situation in South Africa following the abolishment of Apartheid in the 1990s. Striking, vivid and just as time-stretching as the exhibition itself, they touch on the recent past for the country, while harking back to their origins throughout time. Esther Mahlangu’s BMW Art Car 12 (1991) is as modern as it is tribal, combining ancestry with more contemporary artistic styles, showing that the old and new can come together to make something that’s at least as good as either (sorry Hitcher).

Tickets, dates and opening times

The South Africa: 3 Million Years Of Art exhibition will be opening to the public on the 27th October 2016, running throughout sthe winter months before closing on the 26th February 2017. Tickets for the four-month display cost £12 for adults and entry for under 16s is free. It’ll be open daily from 10am to 5:30pm, but the last entry to the exhibition is 80-minutes before closing time, so don’t get there too late. It’s in Room 35, by-the-way, but you should probably just follow the signs or ask for directions when you get there.

Share the details for the South Africa: 3 Million Years Of Art exhibition at The British Museum with: