Claiming Art | Reclaiming Space
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Claiming Art | Reclaiming Space

Apartheid was a politics of space more than anything. . . .
much of the Apartheid legislation was denying people the right to move.
It's all about space, restricting space. . . .
Claiming art is also reclaiming space.
--David Koloane, 1995 2

In 1989 the political system of repression and racial discrimination that had ruled in South Africa began to fail as a result of prolonged opposition within the country and pressure brought on by world disapprobation. In contrast to the struggle that preceded it, the realization of the newly nonracial democracy, which comes to fruition in 1999, was nonviolent, born in hope, and founded on reconciliation.

Along with the relaxation and elimination of barriers in the political sphere, the limits and strictures on artists and their expressions are also lifting. In the days since the end of apartheid, both black and white artists in South Africa have created a variety of works in an array of media. As the years have passed, their expressions have become bolder, more exuberant, and less overtly political than they had been initially. Yet the works on the whole retain a strong political and social content. Indeed, one of the artists represented in this exhibition, Willie Bester, has stated that his art is to be regarded as "bad medicine"--that which you take for your own good but which is noxious or even offensive. This is important, according to Bester, so that the past will not be forgotten (Williamson & Jamal 1996:138). In South African art of this decade there is a continuing reverberation between expression and politics.

This exhibition contains the works of 21 artists. An artists' book, Emandulo Re-Creation, contains the work of 20 additional artists. Most of the works--paintings, prints, collages, videotapes, a sculpture, and the interactive book--have been created since 1989. There is also a small selection of prints and linocuts dating from the late 1960s and early 1970s that provide perspective and historical context for the later works.

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