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   A Few South Africans

 

A Few South Africans
Photo etching/screenprint collage
100 x 70 cm

Helen Joseph, 1983

Helen Joseph, 1983

Helen Joseph was one of the nationally revered leaders who read out the clauses of the new Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People at Kliptown in 1955. In 1956, she was one of the four women activists who led the 20 000 women who marched to Pretoria to protest against the carrying of passes by African women. Her activities led to her house arrest in 1962, a restriction which lasted for 10 years. Bullets were shot through her bedroom window late at night and a bomb wired to her front gate.

Nokukanya Lutuli, 1983

Nokukanya Lutuli, 1983

Nokukanya Lutuli was a teacher when she married her husband, Albert, in 1927. He became president of the African National Congress and, in 1960, he was awarded the Nobel Peach Prize for his non-violent opposition to apartheid. Nokukanya was always deeply involved in community and social issues, and in his acceptance speech for the Peach Prize, Albert said his wife deserved the prize as much as he did.

Annie Silinga, 1983

Annie Silinga, 1983

I will carry a pass the day the Prime Minister’s wife carries a pass,’ Annie Silinga declared at a public meeting during the Defiance Campaign in 1952. And to the day she died in 1984, she never did. For her refusal to submit to the indignity of a pass, Annie was constantly harassed and arrested.

Amina Cachalia, 1984

Amina Cachalia, 1984

Born into a politically aware family, Amina Cachalia was involved in the struggle for freedom all her life. One of the leaders of the Federation of South African Women, she was banned in 1963. Her husband, Yusuf, was under house arrest and her sister, who lived next door, was also banned, ‘So I was not even allowed to talk to her,’ said Amina. It was not until 1978 that Amina’s banning order was finally lifted.

Virginia Mngoma, 1984

Virginia Mngoma, 1984

Thokozile Virginia Mngoma was a member of the African National Congress from a very young age, and was banned for a year in 1953. The most successful protest she helped to organize was the renowned Alexandra (Johannesburg) bus boycott of 1957, sparked off 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.

Caroline Motsoaledi, 1984

Caroline Motsoaledi, 1984

For nearly thirty years, until her husband was released in 1989, Caroline Motsoaledi was a prison widow. Elias was one of the Rivionia triallists jailed alongside Nelson Mandela. Working as a machinist in a factory, Caroline brought up her seven children singlehandedly. Only during the factory holidays in December was she free to travel from Johannesburg to Cape Town to see her husband on Robben Island.

Lillian Ngoyi, 1984

Lillian Ngoyi, 1984

The small, restless, dominating figure of Lilian Ngoyi typified the new spirit of feminine defiance in the ‘50s. Her brilliant personality shot her to political prominence and she became the only woman on the national executive of the African National Congress. In 1956, Lilian was one of the four leaders of the Women’s March to Pretoria. Five years later she was placed under heavy banning orders, and lived almost the last third of her life as a ‘non-person’.

Albertina Sisulu, 1984

Albertina Sisulu, 1984

Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu was one of the most important anti-apartheid activists in South Africa, and the wife of fellow activist Walter Sisulu. During her husband’s imprisonment on Robben Island from 1964 to 1989, Albertina, who worked as a nurse, also underwent detention and ten years of house arrest. Nonetheless she continued to work for human rights, focusing particularly on the strengthening of women’s organisations.

Winnie Mandela, 1984

Winnie Mandela, 1984

In the 1980s social worker Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was regarded as one of the heroines of the struggle. Her husband, the great political leader Nelson Mandela, had been in jail for many years, and Winnie herself had undergone detention, house arrest and solitary confinement in prison. In 1977 Winnie was banished from her home in Soweto to the small, dusty Afrikaner dorp of Brandfort in the Orange Free state, where perpetual harassment extended even to the confiscation of a bedspread.

Jenny Curtis Schoon, 1985

Jenny Curtis Schoon, 1985

Jenny Curtis was a young Johannesburg academic who played an important role in the black trade union movement thus attracting the attention of the State to her activities. She left the country and with her husband, Marius Schoon, also an exile, set up base in Angola where the two worked for the ANC. In 1984, Jenny and her young daughter Katryn were blown up when she opened a parcel bomb sent by the security police and addressed to her husband.

Mamphela Ramphele, 1985

Mamphela Ramphele, 1985

Mamphela Ramphele was born in the then Northern Transvaal in 1947. While studying medicine at university, she became deeply involved in student politics. After qualifying as a doctor, her political activitism continued, and she became one of the founders of the Black Consciousness Movement and a close associate of BCM leader Steve Biko. In 1975, she founded the Zanempilo Community Health Centre in the Eastern Cape, but her activism caused her to be banished to the opposite end of the country.

Case no 6831/21, 1985

Case no 6831/21, 1985

Nameless, for she was but one of thousands in the same situation, ‘Case no 6831/21’ had no right to live in Cape Town under apartheid regulations, even though her husband was a contract worker with a Cape Town company. She spent her married life in squatter camps, continually hounded by officials with the threat of detention and deportation continually over her head. All she wanted was a simple family life with her husband and children.

Miriam Makeba, 1987

Miriam Makeba, 1987

Born in Johannesburg in 1932, Miriam Zensile Makeba was 20 when she became vocalist with top local group the Manhattan Brothers. As the star of King Kong, a musical about a black boxer, Miriam moved to London and then to the United States, where she became internationally famous. After giving evidence at the United Nations against apartheid, her passport was withdrawn, and in 1960 she was not allowed to enter South Africa to attend her mother’s funeral. She had become an exile.

Charlotte Maxeke, 1984

Charlotte Maxeke, 1984

Born in 1874 near Beaufort West in the Eastern Cape, Charlotte Manye was the first black South African woman to obtain a university degree. As a young woman she joined an African choir and toured England, Canada and the United States. While there, she was offered a scholarship to Wilberforce College in Ohio from which she graduated with a B.A. In 1908 Charlotte, together with her husband and fellow graduate Rev. N. Maxeke, founded the first college for Africans – Wilberforce Institute at Evaton.

Elizabeth Paul, 1983

Elizabeth Paul, 1983

A faded photograph of Elizabeth Paul with her husband on her right and Chief Sabata of the Transkei on her left hangs in many houses in the squatter camp of Crossroads, near Cape Town. Elizabeth Paul, now dead, received her vision of healing on the 14th May, 1950. Every year, buses from all over the country come to Tsolo on May 14 to celebrate her festival.

Maggie Magaba, 1983

Maggie Magaba, 1983

Maggie Magaba was one of a vast army of black South African women who spend their lives dedicated to domestic service for a white employer. The daughter of the family for whom Maggie worked tells her story: "Maggie lived in the backyard of our house in a tiny room for over thirty years. During that time she saved every penny to educate her own children. “My own mother died when I was a young child, and Maggie was more of a mother to me than to her own children.”

This 1980s series was made under apartheid to celebrate the history of women who had played roles in the struggle for freedom. Postcards pinrted from the series were wideley distributed at the time.