Shorty and Billy Boy
Shorty and Billy Boy tells the tale of two troublesome dogs whose thieving ways take them to the far-away town of Porcupine Hills. Here they meet all sorts of interesting characters, but continue their mischief until Billy Boy is caught red-handed and sent to jail. Here he dreams about the kindness of others, and comes to realize that good deeds are the true measure of freedom.
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The manuscript formed part of a private collection of Sekoto’s sketches, artworks, letters and memoirs repatriated to South Africa from France. The story was clearly written and illustrated as a personal exercise and possibly a sentimental souvenir of his own childhood memories, but has not been published until now. Sekoto may well have composed it as a gift for children of friends, as he was often engaged in making greeting cards with accompanying illustrations. There are other unfinished stories and musical compositions in the estate collection, but Shorty and Billy Boy is the most complete.
The Gerard Sekoto Foundation has approved a number of editorial changes made to Sekoto’s original text, where the aim has been to preserve the integrity and flavour of the unpublished story, while making it more accessible to present-day readers. The South African context of the tale has been accentuated, and obsolete language and minor inconsistencies have been removed. The result is a timeless and engaging story that retains Sekoto’s unique spirit and imagination.
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Gerard Sekoto (1913–1993) is acknowledged as an iconic and inspirational figure. Sekoto came from a leading academic missionary family, and had a good education compared with many of his peers. Art was not formally offered to black students, even in missionary schools of the1920s, so Sekoto was forced to teach himself his craft. Sekoto left South Africa in 1947 for France, where he lived in exile for nearly 45 years. While there, Sekoto continued, through his art, to reflect the intrinsic humanism with which his art is associated. The French Government awarded him the Chevalier des Artset des Lettres shortly before his death in 1993. He lies buried at Nogent-sur-Marne, outside Paris.
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