Hannes Harrs, with his European background and schooling, contributed to art in South Africa in a unique way, a contribution that as yet has not been comprehended fully.
His passionate involvement with the Dark Continent dates back to his childhood when an uncle, a ship’s captain, brought him artefacts from Africa, mostly craftwork used in fertility rites and festivals of all kinds. It filled the young artistic soul with wonderment and led to an obsession that brought him to Africa in the fifties, when he settled in South Africa.
His love for Africa and the artefacts of its peoples is the centre of Harrs own creativity. The influences were never superficial or cosmetic as reflected in so many of the fashionable products flooding galleries and museums at the present moment, due to ignorance and a misplaced sence of guilt in the aftermath of colonialism.
Only Hannes’s intellect could absorb the rhythms, colours, textures and content of Africa and transfigure them meaningfully into a universality. Even artists of European extraction, born on the African continent, would not experience Africa in the same way as Hannes Harrs.