Federated Union of Black Artists Arts Centre (1978)

Johannesburg Art Gallery houses the archive of the Federated Union of Black Artists Arts Image source

The Federated Union of Black Artists Arts Centre was established in 1978 by Benjy Francis, Sipho Sepamla and other artists, writers, actors and musicians in Johannesburg. The objective was to work with artists in their various forms as well as to resolve legal issues of ownership and distribution. 

The Centre evolved into a full-time arts school, known as the FUBA Academy of Arts and later the FUBA School of Drama and Visual Arts and the FUBA School of Music.

The FUBA Gallery was opened in Newtown by South African painter David Koloane. 

In 1979 FUBA was forming an outreach programme that included teaching operations in township schools where they would approach different schools and arrange art classes once or twice a week. The students’ interest in the art classes would determine the return of the FUBA teachers. David Koloane, who had become a teacher, began teaching children between the ages of 9 and 14 on Saturdays whilst during the week the focus was on high school students in Soweto. 

Sipho Sepamla, who was the Co-founder and director of FUBA at that time, initiated a newsletter for the organisation, where each of the heads of departments was to write something about their particular discipline for every edition of the newsletter. It was an important aspect as it gave the teachers a chance to reflect and express how they approached the teaching and their thoughts for the development of the Centre. Students were later encouraged to write about their experiences and these were also published in the newsletters.

In 1982, Sir Anthony Cairo came to South Africa to give lectures at various universities in Johannesburg and Cape Town. He learned that Black artists were denied entry into these institutions and was invited by Bill Ainslie, who was on the FUBA board, to visit FUBA. From this he learnt just how much the centres for Black artists lacked in resources, which was when he decided to put up a collection for FUBA which was part of the artworks that were donated to FUBA by both international and local artists, including Henry Moore and David Hockney.

When the facility fell on hard times, they opted to sell a large portion of this collection to an international buyer, an Australian businessman. This caused outrage in the art community because, as fellow cultural and art lovers, they felt that the buyer had gotten works from one of the most significant and expensive South African art collections for a fraction of their value.

Last updated : 01-Jun-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 24-May-2017