Born in the lush green, tropical city of Tzaneen in the Limpopo Province in 1948, Julian Motau was one of many siblings, born in his father’s later years. The young Motau worked diligently at his art, passionately honing his skills in his own capacity. At 15 years old, Motau arrived in the throbbing, frenetic metropolis of Johannesburg, with his heart set on fire by a righteous rage against apartheid. His agony and anger at how his people were being forced to live gave rise to a particularly political and heartrending body of work.
Artist Judith Mason was so moved by Motau’s work, talent and heart, that she provided him with instruction and studio space so he could move, both technically and intellectually, into the professional art sphere. Mason also introduced him to gallerist Linda Goodman – and at just 19 years old, he was given his first solo show. In that same year, his definitive arrival on the national art scene was sealed by his winning of the New Signatures exhibition in Pretoria.
Intensely expressive and tenacious in his representation of even the most taboo and terrible truths about township life, Motau fought for his people with every deep, strong scratch of his pen on paper. In a tragic twist of irony, Motau was murdered senselessly in the Alexandria Township just a year later. The tragedy of this twenty year old’s life being so randomly and violently abbreviated remains a poignant reminder that…
ART HAS POWER
and the ARTIST HAS PURPOSE.
Julian Motau more than fulfilled his responsibility as an advocate of township poverty and its consequences.