Sue Williamson’s Funereal Vitality, Alexander Leissle, δημοσίευση στο ArtReview [28/3/2023]
A new show at The Box, Plymouth presents a careful overview of a career dedicated to memory and colonial injustice
Sue Williamson was seven when her family moved from the English Midlands to South Africa in 1948. By the 1980s she was making a name for herself in an apartheid state, her work carefully but urgently calling for change and centring the women of colour who were driving it. Four decades later, she returns for her first institutional show in the UK with a repertoire of work ranging from photography to sculpture and video, dedicated to memory and colonial injustice, and their sociopolitical manifestations and misrepresentations.
The show opens with her breakthrough work, A Few South Africans (1983–87), a series of portraits of key women in South Africa’s liberation struggle. Like enlarged postage stamps, each sepia photo etching is framed with coloured borders that are detailed with small figures or signifiers: shooting stars dot a textured, terrainlike purple border (for singer and civil-rights activist Miriam Makeba); a torn-off newspaper headline (for Caroline Motsoaledi, married to one of the Rivonia defendants jailed alongside Nelson Mandela; she returns for a moving 2012 colour portrait photograph in the series All Our Mothers, 1981–2022). They feel grand and shirk the retro lure that sepia can produce for a soft vibrancy that longs for their vindication in the triumph they await.
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