On 26 August 1989 artist Bill Ainslie, founder and director of the Johannesburg Art Foundation, was tragically killed in a car crash. His death stunned South Africa’s art world. He was 55.
He was returning from an international workshop at the Cyrene Mission in Zimbabwe, where he and Fieke lived and worked when first married. People came from far and wide to his funeral: all races, all religions, all conflicting political beliefs; the wealthy and the desperately poor; the famous and the dispossessed. They came together with warmth and love – and that was Bill’s dream for South Africa.
“Ainslie was one of those rare, irreplaceable men, a born leader, trusted by everyone, a humanitarian, a master teacher… to him, art was far more than making images or illustrating belief: it was where human creative energy found its touchtone. He believed that because art had been neglected in Southern Africa, much had been corrupted.” “What this meant”, wrote former student William Kentridge, “was running an art school open to all people at a time when all formal art institutions were racially restrictive; supporting, both spiritually and financially, artists who otherwise would have had to abandon their activity; opening his school to students who, through inferior school education, would have been denied access to formal art training.”