In 1973, under the Group Areas Act, the Clarke family were relocated from Simon’s Town to Ocean View, a barren, unestablished area without the sea or distinctive mountainous topography. It was understandably difficult time for an aesthetically aware artist from a strong, but now fragmented community who found it increasingly difficult to travel to Simon’s Town to gather inspiration and compositions for his work. The artist’s father passed away in 1975 and the following year the Soweto uprisings took place at heavy cost in human life. This, together with the restrictive emergency measures of the Apartheid state in response to these events, is transmuted in symbolic metaphor in Peter Clarke’s artworks of this time.
These images are frequently characterised by large uninhabited spaces and structures such as walls and houses, sometimes cluttered with abandoned objects and debris or, in the case of this work, inhabited by an empty home and animal skull. A pair of birds, possibly doves, in a perversion of peace, struggle and fight in the sky above this colourful yet sad tableau, illustrating the psychological damage and despair being felt by so many South Africans at this time. These fighting birds are borrowed from the first panel of Clarke’s triptych, Haunted Landscape dating from 1976.
cf. Philippa Hobbs and Elizabeth Rankin. (2011) Listening to Distant Thunder, The Art of Peter Clarke. Johannesburg: The Standard Bank of South Africa. Page 136