Ainslie, Bill (1934–1989) By Stephenson, Jessica
Born in 1934 in Bedford, Eastern Cape, South Africa, William (Bill) Stewart Ainslie was a painter and educator, and the founder of a number of visual art programs and workshops that countered discriminatory racial and educational policies in apartheid-era South Africa. These programs encouraged students to work in abstract and other modernist idioms not practiced in the country at the time. Until his untimely death at age 55, Ainslie melded his career as an artist with his vision of art as a means to combat apartheid. In the 1960s and 1970s, Ainslie fostered the only multiracial art programs in the country, culminating in a formal art school, the non-profit Johannesburg Art Foundation (1982). He helped found the Federated Union of Black Artists (FUBA) and the art schools Fuba Academy (1978), Funda Center (1983) (funda means “learn” in Xhosa), and the Alexandra Arts Centre (1986). The generation of modern African artists and educators trained at these institutions shaped the course of art after apartheid. Ainslie also organized short-term workshops, most notably the Thupelo Art Workshop (thupelo means “to teach by example” in Southern Sotho) in 1983. Thupelo linked local and international artists and focused on abstraction, a radical departure from the social realist style expected of politically engaged South African art of the 1980s.