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PROUD SURVIVORS: THROUGH ADVERSITY – THE LEGACY OF AFRICAN WOMEN

In 2004 two East London based artists, Beverley Samler and Lisa van Wyk, initiated the “Proud Survivors” project centred around arts-focused outreach work with rural and peri-urban communities in the Eastern Cape with a specific emphasis on women. The idea of the project and exhibition was to celebrate these women as survivors of abuse rather than highlighting them as victims and offered participants of the development programme emotional and creative therapy through the process of Art making. The exhibition consists of 5 mixed media works of art created in collaboration between Van Wyk and Samler and 11 collages created from collected handprints by workshop participants. The exhibition featured at the 4th Impact/Kontakt International Printmaking Conference in Berlin in 2005 and in 2006 was donated to the MTN Art Collection. It is still housed at the MTN Innovation Centre in Fairland, Johannesburg. Below is a preview of the entire collection.

PANEL 1

Artists: Beverley Samler and Lisa van Wyk

Title: Proud Survivors: Abuse (2004)

Medium: Mixed media

Size: 420 x 596mm

Artists’ statement:

This panel represents the abuse that women and children sustain, on a daily basis, in South Africa. A fragmented female figure is bracketed by the closed flowers of the African Coral Tree, which takes the form of spears. The spears symbolize the nature of abuse, which pierce and stab at the vulnerability of the female body. The colours of the handprints portray violence and anger.

PANEL 2

Artists: Beverley Samler and Lisa van Wyk

Title: Proud Survivors: Battle against Power I(2004)

Medium: Mixed media

Size: 420 x 596mm

Artists’ statement:

Panels 2 and 3 deal with the battle of power within a traditionally patriarchal society. Issues within the family regarding relationships, responsibility and respect form the “Pyramid of Life”. The tyres and ropes are indicative of abusive behaviour, which suffocates the human rights of individuals. The beaded tokens bring messages of hope and strength

PANEL 3

Artists: Beverley Samler and Lisa van Wyk

Title: Proud Survivors: Battle against Power II (2004)

Medium: Mixed media

Size: 420 x 596mm

Artists’ statement:

Panels 2 and 3 deal with the battle of power within a traditionally patriarchal society. Issues within the family regarding relationships, responsibility and respect form the “Pyramid of Life”. The tyres and ropes are indicative of abusive behaviour, which suffocates the human rights of individuals. The beaded tokens bring messages of hope and strength

LISA VAN WYKwas born in East London, South Africa. She lived and schooled in the Eastern Cape where she excelled in sport and leadership. She then went on to study at the East London College where she obtained a 3-year diploma in Fine Art. During this time Van Wyk received the Jack Lugg Trophy for best printmaker for two successive years. She then travelled to the United Kingdom on a two-year work visa and travelled broadly. On returning to South Africa at the end of 1997, she decided to complete her Bachelors Degree at the East London College under the auspices of Port Elizabeth Technikon. She graduated successfully, majoring in Printmaking and obtained a distinction for her theory component/dissertation, which was: An inquiry as to the validity of the perception that political statements dominate South African art? Van Wyk moved on to lecturing at the East London College where she ran the printmaking department. During this time she participated in numerous group exhibitions, exchanges and collaborations both locally and nationally. An opportunity arose for her to live and work in Taiwan where she resided for a period of 3 years. In this time she travelled extensively and held her first, two successful, solo exhibitions in a local gallery. She returned back to South Africa with her Canadian life partner and gave birth to their daughter. This was the motivation for Lisa to do the advocacy work around “Proud Survivors.” Lisa Van Wyk has art work in many private collections around the world and is currently heads up the Design Department at ELMI, a Private Higher Education Institution in East London and is also the Registrar of Operations at the company. Lisa has a robust opinion about social, political and economic issues that plague the South African context and this is often expressed in her creative work and collaborations with other artists. Her friendship with Beverley Samler is one of those collaborations, where two likeminded individuals joined together to create a stand against Women & Children Abuse.

BEVERLEY SAMLER was born in Zambia and lived most of her life in Zimbabwe. She came to South Africa in 1980 and settled in the Eastern Cape. She started painting again after a long break of 20 years and eventually found her way into the Buffalo City Public FET College’s printmaking studio. She studied under Rose Warren for 4 years. Beverley has held two successful solo exhibitions in the Eastern Cape. In addition she has exhibited in numerous group showings locally and in Zimbabwe. The most recent being the 3rd International Printmaking conference held in Cape Town 2003, where she was involved in the production of a community based project and exhibition namely, “Salted Lines.” Beverley Samler’s passion for printmaking is balanced with other media and it is in this field that the artist views the work to be more experimental and often gender based. She also exhibited at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2004 and served as board member for the Ann Bryant Art Gallery doing extensive work within her community. Samler has always been motivated to use art to accomplish as much as possible in bringing improvement and education to underprivileged communities; she therefore enlisted the help of Lisa Van Wyk for the “Proud Survivors” project. In 2010 Samler moved to the UK and has since then been involved in two projects with connections to women refugees and produced a video work called “The Refuge Manifesto”. She is an ongoing participant in two worldwide exhibitions connected to the bombing of Al Mutanabbi Street in Bagdad, and a collective print exhibition called “Absence and Presence”. Currently her studio is set up in Devon, England, where she now has to come to terms with a totally different set of social upsets.

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BREAK THE SILENCE HIV/AIDS PRINT PORTFOLIO

Art for Humanity (AFH) initiated the Break the Silence HIV/Aids print portfolio in 2000, with the purpose to instil a greater sense of social responsibility towards the pandemic and to those who are infected and affected by the disease. The project was designed by AfH director Jan Jordaan in collaboration with Vedant Nanackchand and Dr. Nigel Rollins. 31 artists – 21 South African and 10 international – have contributed original fine art prints to the HIV/AIDS initiative.

Well-known South African artists, including Gabisile Nkosi and Diane Victor, joined international artists Alex Flett (Scotland), Carmen Perrin (Switzerland) and others to contribute to the portfolio collection. The Break the Silence initiative is endorsed by a number of international leaders involved in the field of health, human rights, culture and art, including Dr. Peter Piot, head of UN AIDS.

The artists joined the project because it offered them a unique opportunity to use their talents to advocate these significant messages to the community. Gabisile Nkosi, an artist based in KwaZulu-Natal believes in the African proverb that says: ‘If you want to hide something from a black man, write it in black and white.’ To convey this message Nkosi said, “It is better to do a colourful visual, rather than to use text. As an artist, I feel privileged to play a role in promoting HIV/Aids awareness through the medium of visual art”.

The Break the Silence print portfolio (25 sets) is part of the following permanent collections: Durban Art Gallery, South Africa; UCLA Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, California; United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland; Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, Matubatuba, South Africa; Department of Arts and Culture, Pretoria, South Africa; Namibia National Art Museum, Windhoek; MTN Art Collection, Johannesburg, South Africa and others. Below is a preview of the entire collection.

HOPE

Artist: Yusuf Arakkal

Title:Hope(2000)

Medium: Screenprint

Size: 420 x 592mm

Artist statement: Yusuf Arakkal

Creative human beings are God’s gift to this world. Let us all use the power of creativity to save the world from this dreaded calamity, AIDS.

YUSUF ARAKKAL was born in Kerala, India, in 1945. He received his Diploma in Painting from Chitrakala Parishath College of Art, Bangalore, India, in 1973, and then specialised in graphic printmaking at the Indian National Art Academy Community Studios in Garhi, Delhi, in 1980. Since 1975, Arakkal has had over 38 shows of prints, oils and watercolours in Bangalore, Madras, Hyderabad, Trivandrum, Calicut, Cochin, Trichur, Calcutta, Mumbai and New Delhi, all India.

Arakkal currently works from his studio in Bangalore. He has exhibited internationally at the Rotunda Exchange Square in Hong Kong, Japan, and the Bayer – RPG Show in Munich, Germany. Arakkal has received several awards, including the Karnataka Lalit Kala Academy Award for 1979 and 1981. Additionally, he was nominated as the Indian Commissioner for the 19th Sao Paolo International Biennale.

TA TA MA CHANCE

Artist: Giselle Baillie

Title: Ta Ta Ma Chance (2000)

Medium: Mixed media

Size: 420 x 596mm

Artist statement: Giselle Baillie

In this print, I have used a random page of a phonebook with no specific reference to any town or city. Some names are completely erased, creating the scenario of those who might possibly have died as a result of Aids, while others are faded, indicating the possible infection with the HIV/Aids virus. Through both of these areas runs a red line, as if I had to scratch these names out myself, something we might all have to do in each and every one of our phonebooks and our lives should we not break the silence on the destructive effect of HIV/Aids in South Africa.

GISELLE BAILLE was born in Bloemfontein and currently lives and works in Grahamstown, both places are in South Africa. She obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts (cum laude) in 1994 and her Masters of Fine Arts in 2000 from Rhodes University, Grahamstown, where she majored in printmaking. In 1994, Baille was awarded the Purvis Prize for highest academic achievement as well as the Pullen Scholarship and academic half colours. In 2000, she started her own business, Under Pressure Agency. Baille has been part of many projects, including the Grahamstown Central Arts Forum, and the Artreach Publication. Her recent exhibitions include a solo show at the Art Gallery in Paarl and the Oliewenhuis Printexchange in Bloemfontein, both South Africa. Her works are part of several collections, including the MTN Art Collection, South Africa, and private collections in South Africa, London, UK, and New York, USA.

BREAK THE SILENCE

Artist: Kim Berman

Title: Break the Silence (2000)

Medium: Mixed media

Size: 402 x 596mm

Artist statement: Kim Berman

I have chosen a metaphor of drowning – like the floods that consumed Mozambique and parts of South Africa. Plucking an arbitrary few out of the floodwaters because help came too late is a metaphor for HIV/Aids in South Africa. ‘Break’ is a word of activism; positive as well as destructive action. It is a word that forces change. Rural women, whose struggles are expressed through their embroideries, are a symbol of the colour, energy and the hope of the African spirit. ‘Silence = Death’ was the slogan for Aids in the USA in the 1980’s and 1990’s. ‘Break the Silence’ is South Africa’s path to the future.

KIM BERMAN was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1981, she completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and eight years later, she received her Masters of Fine Arts with distinction in Printmaking at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University, both in Boston, Massachusetts. Berman is a senior lecturer and Head of Division Printmaking in the Fine Arts Department of the Witwatersrand Technikon. Berman’s exhibitions include Paper Prayers – Aids Awareness Exhibition, Cape Town, South Africa, and solo shows in Bonn, Germany, and at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. Her work is also part of many public and private exhibitions. Berman founded and directs the Artists Proof Studio – a community printmaking centre in Newton, Johannesburg. The project raises funds to subsidise financially disadvantaged artists. Berman received a fellowship to travel to the USA and Belgium in 1999.

BREAK THE SILENCE

Artist: Chris Diedericks

Title: Break the Silence (2000)

Medium: Linocut

Size: 418 x 597mm

Artist statement: Chris Diedericks

Despite the countless loss of life and social prejudice caused by HIV/Aids, large numbers of people are living with this life-threatening disease, while still enjoying their lives with friends, family and lovers. They, the positive other, need the support of a new social mind set, free from prejudice, celebrating differences, a true postmodern sensibility. Art is one of the most powerful mediums, which can address society's fears and (mis)conceptions about HIV/Aids.

CHRIS DIEDERICKS obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts with distinction from the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education, South Africa, where he is currently doing his Masters of Fine Arts. He has held many lecturing positions, including senior lecturer at the Open Window Art Academy in Pretoria, South Africa. Diedericks has worked in a variety of international workshops and was invited to work at the graphic Atelier Torben Bo Halbrik in Paris, France. Diedericks has exhibited both nationally and internationally, including at the French-African Connection in Pretoria, and at the 2000 International Print Triennal in Kracow, Poland. He has also participated in numerous one-person-shows and is part of several collections, as well as featured in various artists’ books and publications. Diedericks has received several sponsorships and grants.

BILL OF RIGHTS: CHILDREN

Artist: Nyaniso Christopher Lindi

Title: Bill Of Rights: Children (2000)

Medium: Linocut

Size: 420 x 600mm

Artist statement: Nyaniso Christopher Lindi

Bill of Rights: Children Act 108 of 1996, Chapter 12.

28. (1) every child that the right:

A: To a name and nationality from birth.

B: To family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care when removed from family environment.

C: To basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services.

D: To be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation.

E: To be protected from exploitative labour practices.

F: Not to be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that:

1) Are inappropriate for a person of that child’s age.

2) Place at risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development.

3) A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child, etc.

NYANISO CHRISTOPHER LINDI lives and works in Grahamstown, South Africa. He obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rhodes University and is presently assistant printer at Fine Line Press in Grahamstown. He has worked for the Institute of Social and Economic Research at Rhodes University and for the Dakawa Art and Craft Centre, both in Grahamstown. Lindi had two student exhibitions (1993 and 1996) and showed at the Provincial exhibition in the Albany Museum in Grahamstown (1999), at Dakawa as an emerging artist (2000), and was part of the Egazimi project, which travelled to Ireland.

BREAK THE SILENCE

Artist: Gabisile Nkosi

Title: Break the Silence (2000)

Medium: Linocut

Size: 420 x 590mm

Artist statement: Gabisile Nkosi

The artwork focuses on polygamy. Polygamy is common, especially in rural areas. My work discourages this practice and encourages the use of condoms. There is a common saying in the black community: ‘If you want to hide something from a black man, then write it in black and white.’ This simply implies that people in the black community are generally lazy to read. If you want to get a message across, it’s better to do a colourful visual rather than text. Also, one needs to be obvious in one’s message instead of abstract. As an artist, I feel privileged to play a role in HIV/Aids awareness through the medium of visual art.

GABISILE NKOSI is a Durban, South Africa-based artist. She has participated in community educational projects and is particularly interested in the therapeutic effects of art making. Nkosi’s work has been seen in several group and solo exhibitions, including the ‘Biennale – Jabulisa 2000’ at the Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, ‘Warm Wind from South Africa’ at the Durham Art Gallery, Durban, and the DLM Museum in XXX, England. She has also received art awards and prices, during and after her studies. Her work is part of the permanent collection of the Durban Art Gallery, South Africa. Nkosi has contributed her talents to a variety of volunteer projects, such as the Peace Oasis project of Durban-based non-profit organisation Art Works Trust.

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