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Friday, June 20, 2014


(“The Black Christ”, Ronald Harrison, oil on canvas, 1962)

Eight Ronald Harrison paintings are currently on exhibition at the Luthuli Museum in Groutville having been donated to the organization by well-known businessman and Edison Power chairman, Vivian Reddy.

Named The Spirit of Chief Albert Luthuli series, the painter Ronald Harrison is best known for his controversial work entitled ‘The Black Christ’. Produced in 1962, the painting depicts Chief Albert Luthuli, African National Congress president general at the time, as Jesus Christ crucified, flanked by two Roman centurions, then National Party Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd and justice minister John Vorster.

As a result, Harrison was arrested and tortured by the security police. The painting was smuggled to the United Kingdom after it was banned in South Africa, and was only returned in 1997. It hangs in the South African national gallery.

Harrison painted The Spirit of Chief Albert Luthuli series during the years 2005 to 2007, each one signed and dedicated to a personal friend and family member, including one to the daughter of Chief Albert Luthuli – Dr Albertinah Luthuli - whom he approached for assistance.

Through a series of events, Dr Luthuli then helped to negotiate the purchase by ANC benefactor, businessman and patron of the arts Vivian Reddy.

At the official handover of the paintings to the Luthuli Museum, Reddy called on other black businessmen to reach out to the arts and support artists of this country. He said he was happy that the paintings had been brought back to their real home at the Museum.

Speaking about her relationship with Ronald Harrison, Dr Luthuli said the artist had shared with her his inspiration after the 1994 elections. ‘The series looks forward to a new dawn and a future without hatred and brutality,’ she said.

Harrison died of a heart-attack on June 28, 2011, at his niece’s house in Mitchell's Plain. A replica of The Black Christ is on display at the offices of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Members of the public and the media are invited to view the paintings on show at the Luthuli Museum 3233 Nokukhanya Luthuli Street in Groutville. For opening times visit