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Goodman Gallery | London

March 15 – April 30, 2021

Beginning this exhibition is "Truth Games" (1998), an interactive series of works in which the artist highlights a series of cases brought before South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). As an activist, Williamson closely followed the TRC hearings and was directly involved with one of the cases.

"Truth Games" brings together courtroom photographs of accusers and defenders, positioned across from one another and divided by an image reflecting the crime, with all imagery and text drawn directly from newspaper accounts of the hearings. Phrases given in evidence are printed on perspex slats, piecing together accusation and defence. Faced with the terrible truths of apartheid brutality broadcast by the TRC hearings, many white South Africans said ‘I did not know’. "Truth Games" allows viewers to engage directly with the work, sliding the slats over the images to reveal what is beneath.

In 2015, the student protests that swept through South Africa made it clear that many of apartheid’s wounds remain unhealed. For Williamson, a new consideration of the long-term effect of the violence of apartheid and the role of the TRC became necessary.

The dual channel video work "It’s a pleasure to meet you" (2016) brings two young people whose fathers had been killed by the apartheid police into dialogue for the first time: Candice Mama and Siyah Ndawela Mgoduka. An intense conversation ensues. The title of the work references the greeting that Mama’s father’s killer, apartheid assassin Eugene de Kock, gave each member of her family when they visited him in jail.

The screening of "It’s a pleasure to meet you" is alternated with the follow up video work, "That particular morning" (2018), which Williamson made in collaboration with Mgoduka. Here, Mgoduka is again a participant, and, on camera with his mother Doreen, he vocalises the questions about his dead father that he has held back for years. The work brings into focus the profound impact of this familial rupture and highlights differing generational attitudes towards the process of forgiveness initiated by the TRC hearings.

"A Tale of Two Cradocks" (1994) also focuses on a story of familial loss during apartheid. Seen from one angle, the work presents the tourist guidebook of the little town of Cradock. From the reverse angle, the story unfolds of Matthew Goniwe, a charismatic teacher and community leader who was targeted and killed by the apartheid government in 1985.

'Testimony' also features Williamson’s more recent and ongoing series "The Lost District" (2016 -). Set against a wall drawing of the map of the old district, hand-engraved glass ‘windows’ and painted brass signage works derived from photographs recall the daily fabric of life in District Six. The delicate white lines of Williamson’s incised glass show up in the crisp grey shadows cast on the wall behind the work: the shapes of these buildings’ re-inscribed presence - like the accounts of the collaborators in Williamson’s films - offer renewed clarity to a history not so far removed from our present.

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