Antiapartheid campaigns accelerated in the 1980s in response to increasingly draconian government measures, including race-based constitutional reforms and the suppression of the press. In these conditions, poster production flourished. The term “cultural worker” emerged to describe artist-activists, emphasizing the collective and political nature of their art. Artists such as William Kentridge and Brett Murray were involved in poster making along with countless anonymous grassroots activists.
Unlike fine art prints, posters (as well as stickers, buttons, T-shirts, banners, and outdoor stencils) are designed to be mass-produced and widely disseminated, communicating an overt message. During apartheid, political organizations frequently produced posters with their own offset lithography presses, a commercial technique commonly used to yield large print runs; other groups relied on commercial printers sympathetic to the antiapartheid movement. Screenprint also played a significant role in the activism of the era, with many groups favoring the immediacy and collaborative production of hand printing.