Oliewenhuis Art Museum is proud to announce the showcasing of a new temporary exhibition, Ke Liha Pene – a tribute to Samuele Makoanyane, which focuses on the small clay warrior figurines made by Samuele Makoanyane (1909-1944) between the late 1930s and early 1940s. Samuele was born in Parys in the Free State province, but he lived and worked at the village of Koalabata, in the Teyateyaneng district of Lesotho. He is renowned for making about 250 warrior figurines that resemble his great-grandfather, Joshua Nao Makoanyane, a commanding general in King Moshoeshoe’s army. He also made 150 in the image of King Moshoeshoe.


Samuel Makoanyane, 1933 (C.G. Damant. 1951. Samuel Makoanyane, inside cover)

Samuele was a self-taught artist who began his career at an early age making clay models of animals and then ventured into making human figurines. His friend, agent, and biographer, C G Damant, encouraged him to focus on depicting his own people. He created various figurines that included men and women going on with their daily activities (for example women carrying pots or breastfeeding babies), musicians playing traditional instruments and so forth. The figurines of musicians, which are now part of the Kirby Collection at the College of Music in Cape Town, were made for Professor Percival Kirby in the 1930s. Professor Kirby had commissioned Makoanyane to create eight figurines of Basotho musicians playing traditional musical instruments, but Samuele only managed to make seven.

Each figurine is finely made and most feature important Basotho national symbols such as blankets and hats. The warriors are depicted in their regalia (headdresses and copper gorget) carrying weapons (shield, spear, battle axe), while the musicians are playing various instruments. The sizes of the figurines range from about 8 to 18 cm in height, a recommendation made by Damant after Makoanyane’s bigger sculptures became difficult to transport and handle. Most of his work was sold through trading stores in Lesotho and South Africa. It is also found in the collections at the Iziko Museums of South Africa, Museum Africa in Johannesburg, the Duggan-Cronin Gallery in Kimberley, the East London Museum, Killie Campbell Museum in Durban, and the National Museum in Bloemfontein.

The exhibition comprises of warrior sculptures on loan from various institutions as well as the regalia and weapons commonly associated with Basotho warriors, particularly his great-grandfather. This includes the headdress (sekola), a copper gorget (khau), stabbing assegai/ spear (lerumo), great plume (mokhele), shield (thebe), battle axe (koakoa) and etc. This exhibition was curated by Steven Sack, who first came across Makoanyane’s work in 1988 when he curated the exhibition “The Neglected Tradition: Towards a New History of South African Art 1930-1988” at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Steven has been fascinated by the artist ever since. Steven mentions that the “exhibition involves the rethinking of the Makoanyane collections in public institutions, as they migrate from social history collections and museums into the discursive space of the art museum – and thus the recognition of Samuele Makoanyane as an artist”. 

Broken Warrior


Ke Liha Pene – a tribute to Samuele Makoanyane can be viewed until 20 November 2022 in the Annex Gallery at Oliewenhuis Art Museum. The art museum is located at 16 Harry Smith Street, Bloemfontein and is open to the public from Monday to Friday between 08:00 and 17:00, and on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays between 09:00 and 16:00.


Entrance is free and secure parking is available for visitors. For more information on Oliewenhuis Art Museum please contact the Museum at 051 011 0525 (ext 200) or oliewen@nasmus.co.za. Stay up to date by following Oliewenhuis Art Museum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for all upcoming exhibitions and events.



Text by Gosiame ‘Amy’ Goitsemodimo

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