Williamson 3582 Maxeke1

Sue Williamson - A Few South Africans (series), 1980s

Sue Williamson (1941-)
A Few South Africans
(series)

This 1980s series of prints, of which the CCAC has six, was made at a time when South Africa was still firmly in the grip of apartheid and the artist was studying for her Advanced Diploma in Printmaking at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town. The series was a result of her engagement with the anti-apartheid struggle and attempted to make visible and to celebrate some of the women involved in the struggle for freedom.

At the time, the faces of these women seldom appeared in the popular press, and little was known about them by white South Africans. Postcards printed from the series were, however, widely distributed through alternative book shops and elsewhere. The artist took some of the images on which the photo etchings are based, while others were sourced from books in university libraries or other archives.

The backgrounds behind the centrally placed portraits reflect elements of the sitter’s biography at the time of the artwork’s making. Motifs in the frames were also derived from African textiles such as kanga. The decorative borders pay homage to domestic practice in the townships, where photographs with personal significance are displayed on top of coloured papers and printed ephemera.

Photographs by Ben Law Viljoen © CCAC

Williamson 3582 Maxeke1

Sue Williamson (1941-)
A Few South Africans: Charlotte Maxeke
(1984)
Series: A Few South Africans
Photo etching silkscreen on paper / 935 x 1315 mm
CCAC# 0325

Donated by Albie Sachs in 1996

Maxeke was one of the first Black South African women to obtain a degree. She joined an African choir and toured the UK, Canada and the US. While overseas, she received a scholarship to Wilberforce University in Ohio and graduated with a BSc. In 1908 she and her husband Marshall established a black school at Evaton outside Johannesburg.

Williamson 3562 Helen Joseph2

Sue Williamson (1941-)
A Few South Africans: Helen Joseph
(1985)
Series: A Few South Africans
Photo etching silkscreen on paper / 1215 x 975 mm
CCAC# 0326

Donated by Gillian Polensky in 2005

Joseph was one of the anti-apartheid activists who read out the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People at Kliptown, Soweto, in 1955. In 1956, she helped lead the 20,000-strong Women's March in Pretoria, protesting pass laws for Black women. Her activism led to her house arrest in 1962, which lasted for ten years.

Williamson 3566 Virginia3

Sue Williamson (1941-)
A Few South Africans: Virginia Mngoma (1984)
Series: A Few South Africans
Photo etching silkscreen on paper / 1215 x 975 mm
CCAC# 0324

Donated by Albie Sachs in 1996

Thokozile Virginia Mngoma was a member of the African National Congress who helped to organise the noteworthy 1957 Alexandra bus boycott in Johannesburg, sparked by an increase in bus fares. For three months people did not catch buses: they walked, or rode bicycles. The boycott worked – the fares did not go up.

Williamson 3570 Motsoaledi4

Sue Williamson (1941-)
A Few South Africans: Caroline Motsoaledi
(1984)
Series: A Few South Africans
Photo etching silkscreen on paper / 1215 x 975 mm
CCAC# 0321

Donated by the artist in 1996

For nearly 30 years, Caroline Motsoaledi lived apart from her husband. Working as a machinist in a Johannesburg factory, Motsoaledi brought up her seven children single-handedly. Only during factory holidays could she travel over 1400 km to see her husband Elias, one of the Rivonia Trialists imprisoned on Robben Island.

Williamson 3574 Curtis Schoon5

Sue Williamson (1941-)
A Few South Africans: Jenny Curtis Schoon (1985)
Series: A Few South Africans
Photo etching silkscreen on paper / 1215 x 975 mm
CCAC# 0323

Donated by Albie Sachs in 1996

Jenny and her husband, Marius, fled the country due to persecution for their anti-apartheid activism. In 1984, Jenny and her daughter were killed in Angola when she opened a parcel bomb sent by the security police. Her son witnessed the bombing. The perpetrators were granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Williamson 3578 Rampele6

Sue Williamson (1941-)
A Few South Africans: Mamphele Ramphele (1985)
Series: A Few South Africans
Photo etching silkscreen on paper / 1215 x 975 mm
CCAC# 0322

Donated by the artist in 1996

Ramphele was a founder of the Black Consciousness Movement, with Steve Biko. Apart from being a political activist, she qualified as a doctor. In 1975, she founded the Zanempilo Community Health Centre in the Eastern Cape, only to be banished to the opposite end of the country. She became an academic leader, politician, and public servant.

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