Visitors to the exhibition in London.
Visitors to the exhibition in London.

Reliving struggle through art

By Time of article published Aug 7, 2012

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Susanne Verdonk

During the apartheid years, works of art by black artists were rejected by many galleries, and could not obtain venues for public viewings.

Most of the works were purchased by diplomats and others who took them out of SA when they left.

Other works were produced by anti-apartheid exiles so the works were lost to the country.

The Ifu Lethu Foundation was established to recover and exhibit this art.

This year it was invited to exhibit at the OXO Tower Wharf in London, as part of the Festival of the Olympic Games.

This was a fitting venue, as many of the exiles had based themselves that city during the apartheid years, so in some respects, it was a return to the city in which several of the artworks were produced.

So far, this exhibition has been worthwhile in raising awareness not only of the struggle against apartheid, but also of the struggle of many SA artists during that period.

Curator Carol Brown is delighted to hear the remarks from the public.

One of the repeated comments is that they’ve learned so much about SA, and how the art has made the story of struggle come alive.

One of the exciting contributes for the exhibition is the venue.

The gallery, with its brick walls, peeling off paints, stained windows, and make-shift staircases looks as if it had to fight battles of its own.

The derelict feel of the building lends the perfect atmosphere for the Struggle Art.

Another aim of the exhibition is to bring home more South African artworks.

Brown hopes that if more people know about the Ifa Lethu Foundation and its art collection, more people will help the foundation to collect South African artworks.

“It’s a lot like Antique Roadshow,” says Brown, adding, “where people have no idea about the valuables that hang above their dining tables, or sit in their attics, unnecessarily collecting dust.

“It would be great if more art pieces could string together the story of how South Africans lived during the Struggle; art that shows in detailed colours how they hurt, hoped, loved, fought, practised sports and made music to forget their difficulties.”

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