SA's Black Christ painter dies

2011-06-30 09:58
Anton Marshall
Cape Town - Ronald Harrison, painter of the infamous Black Christ, has died. He was 71.

Harrison had been staying with members of his extended family in Mitchell's Plain, Cape Town. He was found by a family member on Tuesday night, after he had evidently suffered a heart attack.

Harrison had also been a cancer sufferer, according to Desiree Phillips, his niece. He had been receiving treatment, and seemed to be recovering, but had suffered intense pain in the last few weeks.

He will be buried from St Luke's church in Salt River on Saturday July 2 at 10:00. "It was his wish," said Ms Phillips, "as that was where the Black Christ painting originated".

Black Christ

Harrison is remembered partly for his infamous painting The Black Christ which depicted Chief Albert Luthuli – the president of the ANC - as the crucified Christ. The painting was said to be inspired by the 1961 Sharpeville massacre and the banning of Luthuli and the ANC.

Then-Prime Minister Dr HF Verwoerd and Minister of Justice BJ Vorster are depicted as Roman centurions. The painting was first exhibited in 1962.

In 2007, controversy surrounded a proposal to permanently exhibit the painting. "It's amazing that over 40 years after I painted it, my painting still seems capable of creating controversy and sparking debate," Harrison told IOL at the time.

Harrison completed work last Saturday on the fifth of a series of paintings he was planning to exhibit in the Northern Cape. Phillips said that she would go ahead with the exhibition as Harrison had planned it.