Gavin Jantjies

This work (plate 231) is a typical example of Jantjes’ first body of mature works: photographic silkscreens that dealt directly with apartheid and resistance. It incorporates several well known images of the 1976 Soweto uprising, including one by Peter Magubane, as well as lesser-known photographs, not least George Hallett’s picture of the artist Dumile Feni (qv.) giving a defiant two’s up. The confrontational theme of the print is enhanced through the use of frontal images, an emphasis on movement, and fragmentation. The use of cut and torn edges suggests rupture and displacement, whilst the repetition of the main figure communicates a continuity in resistance. The imposition of barbed wire over the photographic imagery and the use of an apartheid street sign emphasises barriers and divisions. If there were any doubt as to the militant, confrontational content of the image, Jantjes incorporates a poem by the Cape Town poet Steven Smith (who incidentally worked as a silk-screen printer for many years) which threatens white South Africa with black retribution. The timing of the work is also of interest: political resistance was largely suppressed during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and 1983 was a watershed year marked by the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF). This was followed by the formation of the Congress of Trade Unions (1985) and increasing militancy which the National Party Government attempted to suppress through the imposition of a State of Emergency.

Mario Pissarra


Born Cape Town, 1948. Training 1969: BA (Fine Arts), Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. 1972: MA, Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg, Germany. Selected Exhibitions 1968-1969: Group exhibition, The Artists Gallery, Cape Town. 1970: The Artists’ Gallery, Cape Town. 1976: Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London. 1977: Documenta 6, Kassel, Germany. 1978: Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Sweden. 1982: Culture and Resistance Festival, The National Museum, Gaborone, Botswana. 1983: Prophecy and Vision, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, England;15 Artists Against Apartheid, Gallery Maeght, Paris, France. 1985: Black Art Gallery, London. 1988: Essential Black Art, Chisenhale Gallery, London. 1994: 5th Havana Biennale, Havana, Cuba. 1996: Art Against Apartheid, Parliament, Cape Town, South Africa. 1998: Transforming the Crown, The Bronx Museum, New York. 2001-2002: The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich and touring. 2003: M_ARS art and war, Neue Gallerie Graz Austria; Ideologia II Nordic Biennial of contemporary art, Göteborg, Sweden. Collections Tate Gallery, London; Iziko SA National Gallery, Cape Town; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC; National Gallery of Botswana; Several public collections in Sweden and England, Norway, The Netherlands, and the USA. Awards 1984: Greater London Council Minority Rights Prize for the Arts.

Photograph of Gavin Jantjes. Detail of an image “ID” from the Colouring Book Portfolio, Iziko SANG: 96/57:3.