Daily Life in South Africa Today, As Documented by Sue Williamson

July 19, 2019

The history of South Africa was undoubtedly marked by the establishment of Apartheid a horrifyingly repressive system of racial segregation imposed by the state that lasted forty years. Although the situation started changing in the early 1990s, its consequences are still present in the society so it is not unusual that a large number of artists were exploring, and still are, different experiences of the affected generations.

Sue Williamson moved to South Africa the same year Apartheid was launched by the state. Although she was initially engaged with printmaking, during the 1970s she switched to multimedia and focused largely on the burning issues affiliated with the states imposed racism. Ever since, the artist has been producing emotionally charged works focused on the culture of remembrance and therefore social emancipation. Williamson’s new series is about to be displayed within the exhibition That particular morning at Goodman Gallery after the successful retrospective held at the Apartheid Museum two years ago.

Sue Williamson - Its a pleasure to meet you Installation view
Sue Williamson - Its a pleasure to meet you (from the series No More Fairy Tales), 2016. Installation view. 2-chanell video installation with stereo audio

That particular morning

This exhibition is centered on two dual-channel videos from a series of filmed conversations titled No more fairy tales, which explore the understanding of daily life in South Africa twenty years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Namely, in 1996 the South African government founded the TRC to enable a healing process within the society soaked in grief. The hearings were undertaken so that various painful experiences of the victims can be gathered; however, as student unrest swept across the country in 2015, it was clear that the effects of the Apartheid were more than present.

For That particular morning, Williamson collaborated with Siyah Ndawela Mgoduka whose father, Mbambalala Glen Mgoduka, was killed in 1989 by a car bomb installed by the apartheid state. The film features Mgoduka in a difficult dialog with his mother Doreen; he also appeared in one of the films It’s a pleasure to meet you, in conversation with Candice Mama, whose own father was killed by apartheid assassin Eugene de Kock.

Sue Williamson - The Lost District
Sue Williamson - The Lost District, 2016. Engraved plexiglass, ink, wooden frame. Work: 119 x 257.5 x 4.5 cm

The Other Works

The works titled Postcards from Africa, Signs of the Lost District and The Lost District will be on display alongside the aforementioned films in order to deepen the context. The first work consists of a series of ink drawings based on postcards from the first decade of the 20th century (intended for residents and travelers in Africa) which unravel the colonial implications in Africa at that time; Williamson’s adaption is freed of figures which indicates the shameful extent of slavery process.

On the other hand, Signs of the Lost District is a new series based on the old photographs which evoke the everyday life of the District Six. The works are made in laser cut metal and either powder coated or hand-painted, and critically explore the historical perspective the area where the churches, mosques old buildings, schools, and with hundreds of cottages and terrace houses were demolished by the apartheid state.

Sue Williamson - Postcards from Africa
Sue Williamson - Postcards from Africa: Avenue of coconuts, Nigeria, 2018. Ink on Yuko synthetic archival paper, engraved museum glass. Work: 87 x 115 cm

Sue Williamson at Goodman Gallery

Entwined together for a single constellation, Williamson’s new works make a powerful statement regarding the omnipresent racial tension in South Africa and can be treated as valuable documents contributing to the constant fight for a better tomorrow.

That particular morning will be on display at Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg from 25 July until 31 August 2019.

Featured images: Sue Williamson - Postcards from Africa: River Scene at Mangapani, Zanzibar, detail, 2018. Ink drawing and etched glass. Work: 62 x 48 x 3.5 cm; The Lost District, detail, 2016. Engraved plexiglass, ink, wooden frame. Work: 119 x 257.5 x 4.5 cm. All images courtesy Goodman Gallery.