Bearing Witness: Embroidery as History in Post-Apartheid South Africa
September 7–December 7, 2014
Artists from two community art groups—The Mapula Embroidery Project, founded in 1991 in the Winterveldt area outside Pretoria, and Kaross Workers, founded in 1989 on a citrus farm in Limpopo Province—have for several decades used the art of embroidery to express views on diverse issues affecting life in South Africa. See a selection of these fantastically-hued pictorial embroideries—all produced circa 2000, six years after the demise of apartheid—which reveal the deeply political imaginations that have inspired them.
The topics depicted by the artists speak eloquently of historical events as well as of their own personal experiences. The joyous advent of Mandela’s 85th birthday; questioning of traditional gender roles; the scourge of HIV/AIDS and other public health issues; and current affairs and global happenings in places as far afield as New York City—all are the subjects of these lyrical yet socially engaged tableaux. People, animals, trees, and buildings embroidered in lilac, green, yellow, and red—colors chosen for their tonal harmonies and sparkling contrast—populate intricate narratives that pulse with life.