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 fully comprehended. His passionate involvement with Africa 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 boy with wonderment and led to an obsession which brought him to Africa in the fifties, when he settled in South Africa. His love for Africa and the artefacts of its people was the centre of Hannes’ own creativity. These influences were never superficial or cosmetic as reflected in so many of the fashionable products flooding the galleries and museums at the time, due to ignorance and a misplaced sense of guilt in the aftermath of colonialism.
Only an Intellect such as Hannes’s could absorb the rhythms, colours, forms and textures of Africa and the trans-figure them meaningfully. Even artists of European extraction, born on the African continent, would not experience Africa in the same way as Hannes did.