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South African Artists Reflect Their Nation's History in Two Exhibitions

-- Paintings/Works on Paper from 1980s and Post-Apartheid Photos Shown at Godwin-Ternbach Museum Through Queens College’s “Year of South Africa” --

Collection of Violet and Les Payne and Next Generation: Emerging South African Photographers
February 5 – March 21, 2015
Opening Reception, Thursday, Feb. 5, 6 pm
FLUSHING, NY, January 26, 2015 – Two special exhibitions by South African artists open the New Year at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum and celebrate Queens College’s “Year of South Africa.”  Together, the Collection of Violet and Les Payne and Next Generation: Emerging Photographers from South Africa highlight the political and social shifts that have taken place since the Soweto Uprising in 1976. “So much of what we know of South Africa is filtered through the often-sensational news media,” says Elizabeth Hoy, GTM collection curator, who organized the show with GTM director Amy Winter. “By looking at South Africa’s history through the lens of artwork, the audience is able to see the course of events through the eyes of the participants—artists involved in the anti-apartheid movement in the 1970s and young artists who will help shape the future of South Africa.”
Les Payne, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, reported on the massive and violent student protests in the black township of Soweto in 1976. Returning there in 1985, he wrote aboutes Payne, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, reported on the massive and violent student protests in the black township of Soweto in 1976. Returning there in 1985, he wrote about changes that had taken place in the intervening years, and initiated a collection of paintings and works on paper by township artists, which captured everyday life and a sense of hope despite the immense turmoil that surrounded them. Payne’s writings will be available to audiences at the show. Artists in the collection include Velaphi Mzimba, Hargreaves Ntukwana, David Mbele, Winston Saoli, and Percy Konqobe, among others, many of who are now internationally recognized. A talk by Payne on opening night will kick off a series of compelling programs, which are free to the public.
Through a partnership with the Roger Ballen Foundation of Johannesburg, dedicated to the advancement of photographic education in South Africa, the museum will display three up-and coming photographers who have come of age since the abolition of apartheid and the first democratic election in 1994. Works by this younger generation are examples of both the momentous shift to democracy twenty years ago as well as the end of an era with the death of Nelson Mandela in December 2013.
“These works reflect important generational and historical differences,” says GTM director Amy Winter. “In the Payne collection, artists produce works in traditional styles like realism and cubism, reflecting Western influence and dominance, albeit with a powerful sense of locality and culture.” But sometimes these works incorporate covert symbolism, as in rectangular forms that signify imprisonment—one of the artists was, in fact, imprisoned. The oppression and fear of reprisal under which these artists lived was devastating. But the courage to express themselves triumphed over the terror. Indeed, the charming, folkloric quality of David Mbele’s works has great appeal, while also acting as icons of  Soweto life. Contrast this with the flippant image of a young girl by Musa Nxumalo, unafraid to sass by sticking out her tongue at photographer and viewer alike. The sensitive, sophisticated, cubistic work of Winston Saoli gracefully integrates masks as signs of African culture. But unlike Picasso and his contemporaries, who appropriated African ritual objects and style for their works, Saoli and other artists in the collection pay tribute to their own traditions, which white Afrikaaners demeaned and repressed.
A series of programs at the GTM will engage the public, starting with the gallery talk by Les Payne on opening night. A roundtable on “Global and African Apartheid” includes Les Payne, QC history professor Satadru Sen, and Richard Knight, Director of the African Activist Archive. This will be followed by a talk by artist and South African native Robert Sember, about the ongoing struggle for social justice in contemporary South African visual art, music, film; and a Performance/Roundtable on art as social activism between Franklin Furnace founder and artist Martha Wilson, QC art professor Maureen Connor, Brother(hood) member Riccardo Valentine, and CCNY author Tonya Foster, with performances by the activist dance collective Brother(hood), a gumboot dance by QC students, and responsive readings by Queens College and Pratt Institute writing programs. Artist’s talks via video conference will take place with S. African photographers Musa Nxumalo, Sanele Moya, and Sipho Mpongo; a film series will also be offered. For further information, dates and times, visit the GTM website at
The Godwin-Ternbach Museum, a part of Queens College’s Kupferberg Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, presents contemporary and historical exhibitions and programs that provide significant educational opportunities and aesthetic experiences to residents of the borough of Queens and neighboring Manhattan and Long Island. As the only collection of art and artifacts in the borough, housing over 6,000 objects that date from ancient to modern times, the museum introduces many individuals to art and artifacts they might not otherwise encounter. The breadth of these holdings, and the rich resources of the college, allow presentations that enlighten audiences about art and culture—their own traditions and histories and the American scene. Lectures, symposia, gallery talks, workshops, films, concerts, and tours as well as digital displays, catalogues and an active website, complement and interpret the art on view, particularly to serve the needs and interests of local communities. All exhibitions and programs are free.


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