In the late 1970s Kin Bentley studied fine art at the East London Technical College under legendary artist and teacher Jack Lugg.
Military conscription finally caught up with him in July 1979. He considers the next two years spent in the army as among his most productive – as an artist, sketching the various places and characters he encountered.
Raised in a liberal political family, he and his siblings did voluntary work for the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) in the late 1970s. They were much influenced by the courageous anti-apartheid stance of Donald Woods, editor of the East London Daily Dispatch.
Kin worked on the Dispatch as a cub reporter straight out of school for the first five months of 1975, but when his July call-up was inexplicably postponed by a year he decided to study art – and fortunately Jack Lugg allowed him to start his first year in June. He did enough to pass, and went on to become joint student of the year in his third year, before doing a fourth year, majoring in painting.
With South Africa in political turmoil, during his two-year ordeal in the army Kin succeeded in having himself declared a security risk, which left him working in the media centre at the SA Intelligence School that had just opened near Kimberley for most of the two years.
After a couple of months recuperating from the ordeals of army life, Kin joined the PFP as an organiser in East London in late 1981. However, with the party battling to compete against the swart gevaar (black danger) of the National Party, the PFP was unable to keep him on.
So in August 1984 he got a job as a reporter on the Evening Post in Port Elizabeth – and was soon covering the United Democratic Front-led uprising against apartheid which was to last a decade until non-racial elections were held in 1994. He had moved across Newspaper House to the Eastern Province Herald around 1988.
Kin saw the pivotal years of 1990 and 1991 from the vantage point of London, England. He was seconded to the London office of the SA Morning Group and worked as a correspondent for such titles as the Herald, Dispatch, Business Day, Cape Times and Natal Mercury.
Having got married and had a first son while in the UK, Kin and family returned to a nation in transition. He resumed work on the Herald in January 1982 as head of the Metro Bureau. This meant he covered municipal affairs, and especially the negotiations towards a single, non-racial council.
After the 1994 elections, and now with two young children, Kin moved from reporting to night sub-editing on the Herald. It was a gruelling shift from 3.30pm to 11.30pm-plus, five nights a week, which he did for the next 22 years until he was finally forced to take early retirement in March 2016.
In the early 2000s, with the implosion of Zimbabwe due to President Robert Mugabe’s land grabs, Kin turned out a series of hard-hitting articles for the Herald which saw him clash repeatedly with ANC luminaries, among them Khusta Jack, the one-time UDF leader who Kin in no small measure had ensured received maximum exposure as an anti-apartheid activist.
As to his art, Kin supplemented his reporter’s salary by writing art reviews for the Evening Post and, from about 1993, for the Herald. These were only discontinued by the paper in 2010.
Throughout his career he has kept up his art, especially drawing. He has also been a steady producer of graphics, paintings and carvings.
In the face of recent ANC propaganda painting the role of whites in South Africa as almost without exception having been negative, Kin has sought to counter that by drawing attention to the historical facts surrounding the country’s development largely as a direct result of more than 350 years of European presence.
Much of his writing focuses on this, while his art encompasses painted abstracts and mixed-media work, often with a subliminal political bent. He has produced myriad drawings from life as well as many more done from the subconscious.
Kin Bentley, in shades of red, stands beside East London Tech art school head Jack Lugg, as they set off on one of his sketching outings in 1975. Among those in the group, with just his red hair visible, is the late Derek Bauer, whose cartoons for the Weekly Mail in the 1980s became the stuff of legend.
In the late 1980s, then EP Herald reporter Kin Bentley gets a friendly welcome as the Apple Express stops at Van Stadens during a press junket. The journalist on the left is Debbie Derry, while the name of the lovely lass doing the welcoming on the right has, sadly, been lost in the mists of time and fading memory.
Young activist. This picture appeared on the front page of the Daily Dispatch, East London, in 1977. Kin Bentley single-handedly heckled PW Botha in the East London City Hall and was manhandled by National Party heavies.