Subscribe to our newsletter for our must-see exhibitions, artists, events and more here
Shop William Kentridge Prints here

The Memory Work of Sue Williamson and Lebohang Kganye | Frieze

At the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, the two South African artists present multi-media works that memorialize anti-Apartheid resistance

The Apartheid regime that governed South Africa for much of the 20th century operated through separateness: Black people were moved to the hinterlands, men taken from families, cosmopolitan neighbourhoods bulldozed, languages disrupted. Lebohang Kganye and Sue Williamson’s exhibition at the Barnes Foundation, steeped in such histories, sounds these dislocations and undertakes an act of restoration. This is fitting: for all of the press that the men of the anti-Apartheid struggle received, it was women who held communities together and, often, bravely resisted. Certainly, many South African artists used their practice as a form of protest. Williamson, for instance, made monotype prints of women leaders and reproduced them as small postcards – part agit-prop, part icon – that circulated where traditional art could not (‘A Few South Africans’, 1982–87).

There are echoes of that project in Williamson’s ‘All Our Mothers’ series (1983–ongoing): dozens of calmly posed figures from many walks of life. Their visages anchor the first gallery and complement Kganye’s series of black and white, figurative wall-hangings rendered in fabric (‘Mosebetsi wa Dirithi’, 2022), which concisely introduces a practice of extrapolating from (or interpolating oneself into) everyday photography. Taken together, these projects assemble a sort of national family album, underscoring the exhibition’s motifs of memorial and translation.

Read full article