After completing his schooling in Soweto, Ezrom Legae went to study at the Polly Street and Jubilee Art Centre between 1959 and 1964 under Cecil Skotnes and Sydney Kumalo. He was to teach and influence many: Legae was appointed art instructor at Jubilee Art Centre, later becoming co-director of that institution. In 1970, Legae was awarded a USSALEP travel scholarship, which funded travel and study in the US and Europe. Later he directed the the art programme at the African Music and Drama Association and taught at the Federated Union of Black Artists (FUBA), until he eventually became director of the Diepmeadow Town Council Art Project until he died, in 1999.
Ezrom Legae was not directly associated with the Black Consciousness movement, but he was a close associate of the artists of that movement. He portrayed a series of images of the Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko after Biko’s death in prison.
His sculptures of distorted animal forms drew both from new modernist styles and traditional African carving. But his drawings and graphics from the 1970s are perhaps his most influential works. He conjoined animal and human forms, in surreal and dreamlike images. In these works Legae seemed to be creating a world of haunting violence, an “evocation of primal passion and dislocated suffering” (Ivor Powell). Sometimes his juxtapositions of human and animal or bird parts convey an emotional shock.
His drawings, despite their small size, their delicacy and subtlety, are immensely powerful. His charcoal and pencil line is “tense and exact”. Animals, eggs, birds, and human bodies are evoked in beautifully precise marks.