This exhibition of paintings, sculpture, photographs, cartoons, beadwork and prints, created by a diversity of artists from various cultural backgrounds, is curated by Natalie Knight, a forerunner in the promotion of contemporary South African art, and curator of the university’s West Campus art collection. It runs from 4 to 31 July 2012.
It is fitting that the exhibition takes place on the campus where Mandela spent some of his student days. In his book, The Long Walk to Freedom
, he writes:
“Wits opened a new world to me, a world of ideas and political beliefs and debates, a world where people were passionate about politics ... I discovered for the first time people of my own age firmly aligned with the liberation struggle, who were prepared, despite their relative privilege, to sacrifice themselves for the cause of the oppressed.”
The artworks on show capture the life story of Mandela at all stages, from his rural beginnings to his life of poverty in Alexandra township, his home in Soweto, his days as a lawyer and as an accused, his suffering in prison and his triumph as president.
Says Knight: “The common denominator among the exhibiting artists is their admiration and respect for a leader who has made South Africans proud. Through their different artworks, they have captured the spirit of a man who embodies the desire for peace, justice and reconciliation.”
Among the notable displays are a lithograph, photograph and handwritten story by Mandela himself, depicting memories of Robben Island. Zapiro has put aside his acerbic pen, using wit and not vitriol in several cartoons. There are photographs by Jurgen Schadeburg, Debbie Yazbek, Michael Meyersfeld and Ivor Ginsberg.
Billy and Jane Makhubele have collected newspaper photographs of their hero since 1990. Combining these with beads and safety pins on traditional Shangaan fabric, they have created images of Mandela’s significant moments – the day of his release from Robben Island; his wedding to Graca Machel; and a visit to the grave of Walter Sisulu.
Delicate paintings by Joachim Schonfeldt referring to Mandela’s life in the townships are in contrast to Alfred Thoba’s thick textured work expressing gratitude to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela for patiently waiting for her husband’s release. Susan Woolf's sculpture reflects opposing views of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as both mother of the nation and as a proponent of ‘necklacing’.
Sculptor Johannes Maswanganyi together with one of his young students Richard Chauke has produced images in wood of Mandela at different times of his life.
Johannes’ son, Collen Maswanganyi, exhibits a topical and thought-provoking sculpture titled Fruits of Freedom
. Invoking the symbolism of four fruits - a banana, an orange, a pear and an apple - Collen questions whether Mandela’s long walk to freedom has borne fruit. His small painted sculpture of a traditionally attired Shangaan woman sending a Facebook
message to Madiba on his 94th
birthday straddles the cultural divide.
Eric Sher’s depiction of the law offices of Mandela and Oliver Tambo provides an historic memoir of downtown Johannesburg, while a rare collection of old Xhosa (Thembu) beadwork (collected by Dr Maria Stein-Lessing in the mid-1940s) includes a necklace similar to the one worn by Mandela on the day of his sentencing. Other artists featured are Roy Ndinisa, Daniel Mosako, Wayne Barker, Shelley Elk and Beverley Price.
The 20 artists participating in the show are all South African except for Blanchard Magu from the Ivory Coast, whose 2004 portrait of Mandela highlights Madiba as HIV/Aids activist.
The exhibition is open to the public on Mondays to Fridays from 09:00 to 17:00 and on Saturdays from 09:00 to 13:00.
Other events associated with the exhibitions are:
* Tuesday, 10 July at 18:30: Lecture by Natalie Knight titled 'The Fruits of the Long Walk to Freedom'.
* Saturday, 28 July at 10:30: Walkabout led by Prof Iain Currie of the the Wits School of Law.
Bookings can be made with Origins Centre by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 011 717 4700.