Boston University’s School of Visual Arts invited South Africa’s Caversham Press for an exhibition, highlighting works from the press’ numerous local and international artists, artists-in-training, writers and educators.  The show is on display until March 27 at the 808 Gallery (808 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston), and is free and open to the public.

The work, both sorrowful and spellbinding, is a testament to the multifaceted history of the apartheid regime, and a collective response to the indiscriminate HIV/AIDs epidemic, observed through the talent and the voices of these individual artists, young and old, established and up-and-coming. For exhibition details, click HERE.

My take on the exhibition, after the jump.

With more than 120 pieces of prints, projects and artwork on display, this exhibition is a comprehensive account of visual history, inspired by and based upon the range of human experience: from the intensely beautiful to the tragic. Through the eye of these featured artists, the audience has intimate access into the tumultuous ebbs and flows of the past 25 years of social, economic and political landscapes of South Africa.

Founded by Malcolm and Rosmund Christian in 1985, the Caversham Press has weathered  persecution, inequity and censorship under the government apartheid. Through its establishment in the community, the Caversham Press has been an active outlet for the marginalized and the underprivileged to use artistic media to voice their pain, fate, suffering, injustice, but most of all, their endurance and their faith in people.

Boston University’s Exhibitions Director Lynne Cooney has collaborated with Malcolm Christian and explains just how extensive the curatorial process had been in hosting the exhibit: “It was critical that the exhibitions reflect Caversham’s voice, which was made possible through two years of collaborative planning, three trips to South Africa, and endless correspondence and dialogue. It was only in this unique partnership that twenty five years of printmaking could be appropriately celebrated and represented.”

The show is a candid collection that expresses the artists’ need and ability to freely employ a range of techniques without inhibition. Through seemingly simple stick-figure drawings, punchy colors, bold contrasts, graphic and organic prints, the pieces bring immediate focus to their respective messages. From the rough etchings to pointillism to the more delicate, pencil-thin brush strokes of the artwork, the raw emotions and the realities come alive through the exhibition.

One of the most memorable works includes: “You Really Must Come Sometime” (2001, screenprint) by Peter E. Clarke. In it, the emotional burden of traveling, and living as a noma is portrayed with a stunning honesty. In Stheinbiso Sibisi’s “Umbholofithi” (1996), we begin to understand the clash of the traditional and Western cultures, their value systems, and the impending effects of globalization.

An entire section of the exhibit is dedicated to the works that address the resonating impact of HIV/AIDS within the communities. Zanele Magaaza’s “Ukwelapha (Healing)” (2006, linocut) is one of many works commissioned as part of the AIDS project. One of the most notable and prominent artists of the collection was Gabisile Nkosi, whose body of work is well represented in the exhibit. “Culanami (Sing With Me)” (2007) is a part of the “Healing Portfolio” series, and is a hopeful response to coping with the trials and tribulations these peoples face, be they racial segregation, dire poverty, or disease. Many times, we see, it is all three.

As the exhibition comes full circle, we are reminded of the press’ mission statement, which has made its way into the organization’s establishment of the Caversham Press Education Trust in 1993, and the Caversham Centre for Artists and Writers in 2000. “… At the core of outreach activities is the [press’] mission to cultivate ‘inspiration in the individual and the individual as aspirations’.”


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