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Catalog Data

Sue Williamson, born 1941, England (active South Africa)  Search this
Lithograph on paper with plastic film
H x W: 55.3 x 187.3 cm (21 3/4 x 73 3/4 in.)
South Africa
Label Text:
Words of explanation from the artist:
"Winne Mandela and the assassination of Dr. Asvat is the only print I have made as part of a body of work around the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. (Other work includes the 16 part Truth Games series, and the interactive CdRom projection piece, Can't Forget, Can't Remember).
All the work attempts to come to grips with the significance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the transformation of South Africa from an apartheid state to a democracy. The TRC provided an opportunity for all the horror stories of the previous decades to be aired in open hearings. Although this was undeniably an essential process in beginning the healing of the country, the 'truth' proved elusive.
One of the most poignant hearings involved that of Winne Mandela, until the late 1980s a heroine of the struggle, and recognized internationally as 'The Mother of the Nation.' The killing of a young teen [Stompie Seipei] in December 1988 at the hands of the Mandela Football Club brought her reputation into disrepute.
Dr. Abu Asvat-Baker was a beloved Soweto doctor who was assassinated by two men in his surgery in January 1989. Many believed he was killed because he refused to supply false medical records clearing Winne Mandela of involvement in the death of Seipei, whom Mandela accuse of being a police informer.
In [the print], Winne Mandela and the assassination of Dr. Asvat, the viewer sees Dr. Asvat's brother on the left, Dr. Asvat busy in an open air clinic in the central panel and Winne Mandela on the right. The lines crossing the print represent the media, the lines of a television screen, and the text is taken directly from conflicting newspaper reports at the time. The text supplies the story in broken phrases--sound bites. Some read: wept at the Truth Commission, victim's brother, Ebrahim Asvat, murdered Soweto doctor, Dr. Abu-Asvat, would not corroborate her story, doctor refused to certify that, Did she order the killing of, right to be presumed innocent until.
If it is confusing to the viewer, no more so than to the nation's audiences who in the face of Winnie Mandela's denials were left to make up their own minds. What I was attempting to do (as with all the work I have done in this area) was simultaneously to present the drama of the historic moment of confrontation with the confusion left behind." (Artist's Statement, Axis Gallery, 2002)
This piece shows three side-by-side black and white photographs, the two on either end are close-ups of a man and a woman with glasses and the central image shows a doctor in a white coat applying a stethoscope to a child who peers out at the viewer. Horizational white lines cross the composition. Red, green and gray inserts of texts are placed between the striations of white throughout the composition.
Exhibition History:
Heroes: Principles of African Greatness, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 16, 2019–October 3, 2021
Insights, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., February 27 to November 28, 2004
Published References:
Kreamer, Christine, Mary Nooter Roberts, Elizabeth Harney and Allyson Purpura. 2007. Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution; Milan: 5 Continents Editions, p. 210, no. 18.9.
Credit Line:
Museum purchase
Object number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
© 1999 Sue Williamson
See more items in:
National Museum of African Art Collection
Heroes: Principles of African Greatness
On View:
NMAfA, First Level North Galleries (1130-1134)
Data Source:
National Museum of African Art