Ernestine White (South African, born 1976; lives Cape Town). Outlet. 2010. Photocopy with lithographic ink on five sheets. Overall: 53 15/16 x 15 15/16” (137 x 40.5 cm). Publisher: unpublished. Printer: the artist at Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. Edition: Two unique variants (in 2005 and 2010). General Print Fund, 2010. © 2011 Ernestine White
Printmaking in South Africa has been a tool of collective political action, a means of subsistence, and, above all, a medium of artistic expression. Drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection, Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now features prints, posters, books, and wall stencils created over the last five decades that demonstrate the exceptional reach, range, and impact of printmaking during and after a period of enormous political upheaval.
Systematic racial segregation—apartheid—in South Africa lasted nearly a half-century (1948–94), severely restricting artistic education and professional opportunities for the black majority. These limitations, however, gave rise to alternative art centers, schools, workshops, theaters, and publications that cultivated artistic expression and broadened access. Printmaking, with its flexible formats, relative affordability, and collaborative nature, was a catalyst in these developments.
The earliest print in the exhibition and on this site—also the Museum’s first acquisition of work by a South African artist—was made in 1965 by Azaria Mbatha, during a decade of increasing political turmoil and printmaking activity. Throughout these violent years and those that followed, the antiapartheid movement gained momentum; printmaking reflected this and was a key element of it. In the early 1990s, the movement succeeded in dismantling apartheid and South Africa became a new democracy. Political and social change brought with it new and evolving artistic concerns, which are embodied by the more recent works included.