Building Community: Apartheid (Series I)
In trying to grasp the individual
testimonies as well as unravel the historic and legislative backdrop I
felt myself immersed in the landscape of the country, which under
Apartheid was like no other. Until 1994, the entire country of South
Africa and every community was carved up into separate areas by race with
every activity controlled by legislation keeping the groups apart. I
have tried to convey this context in several artworks. Homelands,
Black Spots and Townships
show this landscape and Forced Removals
refers to the social engineering and ethnic cleansing that took place
to implement and enforce the policies of Apartheid.
The funeral march became a very familiar scene in so many communities
wracked by killing in the War of Liberation. Funeral
March is a piece commemorating all those who had to bury loved
ones. Many assume the killing was all by whites against blacks and
vice versa, but Protest
shows that much violence was perpetrated by blacks against blacks of
different tribes and/or political allegiance. Two
pieces deal directly with victims’ stories, Stompie’s
Story and Nietverdiend
Ten. These are only two examples of literally thousands
of victims that I chose for illustrating in this exhibition; much of my
future work will be devoted to this area.
Coming face to face with the perpetrators remains a very difficult
process. Reading volumes of gruesome testimony day after day, left
me obsessed with thoughts and images of who these people are. I was
haunted by the pain of the victims and the evil of the perpetrators.
The rest of the pieces illustrate the role of perpetrators.
to Face I-VI show my own imaginary views of these people and
their emotions. They come from a series of over 60 drawings done
over an intense six week period where I drew from one male model and two
female models using them as vehicles for the emotions I was thinking about
and feeling while working on this material. The drawings represent a
chronicle of the expressions and range of deep emotions that haunted me as
this history, in part my own, was revealed and exposed. These images
are imaginary psychological portraits of real people depicting persons who
gave actual testimony under oath to the TRC. Selected portions of
testimony are used in the accompanying text for each piece.
and Special Branch deal with
perpetrators actions and the legal circumstances. Veiled
Secrets is a letter to the TRC by the wife of a
perpetrator and reflects the range of emotions of her and countless other
wives, mothers and daughters of such perpetrators.
The materials I used to make these pieces are a metaphor for some of the
content of the work. Using mixed media and the
process of collage allowed me to reflect the mélange of cultures and
races, the complexity, layers and diversity of South African society.
In conceiving the works I was drawn to different techniques
and materials to convey this multiplicity of perspectives and aspects of
this history. Clay pieces, all individually
made and with their own unique shape, were used for peoples’ names and
other data like events, dates and locations. They
are misshapen and unique like people’s lives; they are fragile and of
the earth and the land. White writing on a
black ground is symbolic of white domination, and removing the paint to
create the words/image is also a process metaphor. The
use of a border in many of the pieces references the boxed or contained
existence separating the races. Finally, the
importance of texture and the sonorous use of color in the work reveals
the prevailing mood of these tragic and tortured times.
View images from Apartheid (Series I)