Truth & Reconciliation  



Building Community
Global Warming Art Series




For four years I have been painting the unfolding history of my homeland, South Africa.  My inspiration has been the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) established in 1995 under the Chairmanship of Archbishop Desmond Tutu to examine the crimes perpetrated under apartheid between 1960 - 1994.  The mandate of the TRC was not only to examine South Africa's past but to begin the process of national healing and reconciliation and thereby serve as a catalyst for peaceful coexistence under majority rule.


I conceived the paintings as a work-in-progress to be exhibited as I completed each separate aspect.



Townships Mothers of Ten
Exhibition I:




Exhibition II:

Impact on Women and Children




Exhibition III:

Institutional Arrangements




Exhibition IV:

Truth and Reconciliation




In this Special Exhibits section of the website you can find each of these four exhibits in their entirety.  They are organized as follows:


bulletan introduction and artist statement
bulletthumbnail images

enlargements of each artwork along with the text that accompanied the
painting in the original exhibition.


I - Apartheid - The legal and geographic framework of apartheid South Africa and human rights violations - exhibited February 2000 at the Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center, Seattle.  


Apartheid deals with the foundations and layout of Apartheid and featured some of the individual stories associated with life under this regime.  The artwork described some of the Apartheid's legal infrastructure and how every aspect of South African society was segregated, divided and defined by racial groupings. 


Introduction to Series 1: Apartheid



II - The Impact on Women and Children - exhibited May 2000 at Seattle University, Patricia Wismer Women’s Center.  


This exhibition focused specifically on the role of women in this process of collective dialogue and reconciliation.   The work explored issues of connection, individual strength and group powerlessness.  


Introduction to Series 2: Impact on Women and Children


III - The Institutional Arrangements - exhibited November 2002 at Seattle Pacific University, Art Center Gallery.  


Nine paintings address the social context of apartheid, the institutions and the philosophical and cultural milieu in which apartheid thrived.  These paintings address the behavior of the collective as opposed to the individual which tends to be the focus of the first two exhibits.


Introduction to Series III: Institutional Arrangements

IV - The Concepts of Truth, Justice and Reconciliation - exhibited November 2002 at Seattle Pacific University, Art Center Gallery.  


In this final phase, eleven paintings explore the processes of seeking truth and striving towards justice and reconciliation.  Since these are abstract concepts the paintings utilize shapes, color, texture and writing to evoke and explore these ideas.

Introduction to Series IV: Truth and Reconciliation


Historical Background and the TRC


When South Africa had its first all race democratic election in April 1994, it took a step toward joining the community of democratic nations of the world.  It also took the courageous and virtually unique step to examine its own violent past, reveal its ugly truths and move forward in a spirit of healing and reconciliation.  The leaders of the new South Africa realized there would be no future for the country under majority rule without all its citizens having full knowledge of their violent past.  The Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act was passed which established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and mandated it to:

“...investigate and document gross human rights abuses committed within or outside South Africa in the period 1960-1994.”
  “...bring about unity and reconciliation... based on the principle that reconciliation depends on forgiveness and that forgiveness can only take place if gross violations of human rights are fully disclosed.”

The TRC Act referred to:

“... the need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not retaliation, a need for Ubuntu (an African principle that every community member is responsible for every other member) but not for victimisation”.  

The TRC Act provided for three committees to deal with different facets of the process:


The Human Rights Violations Committee to investigate human rights abuses and hold hearings throughout the country.  The hearings are not conducted in a court of law; the Committee has no sentencing powers.



The Amnesty Committee to grant amnesty according to criteria set out in the Act; and,



The Reparations and Rehabilitation Committee to make recommendations to the government on compensating victims and communities for wrongs suffered in the past.

The TRC Final Report talks of justice:

“Amnesty cannot be viewed as justice if we think of justice only as retributive and punitive in nature.  We believe, however, that there is another kind of justice - a restorative justice which is concerned not so much with punishment as with correcting imbalances, restoring broken relationships - with healing, harmony and reconciliation.  Such justice focuses on the experience of victims; hence the importance of reparation.”

The TRC Human Rights Violations Committee (TRC) held hearings from April 1996 - September 1998.  The TRC was chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and had 17 commissioners and a staff of 250.  The TRC received over 7,000 amnesty applications and heard over 21,000 testimonies from victims or their families. 
I hope you find the exhibition stimulating and thought- provoking and that it gives you a new perspective on race and ethnicity.  I hope that what the TRC has done and continues to do gives hope to all to work for a better world. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Website can be found at:




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