Public Memory, Private Truths: Voices of Women and Visual Narrative in Post-apartheid South Africa

By Annette Blum.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper examines the role of visual narrative in the process of uncovering the truth through “remember[ing] what one most wants to forget” (Becker 2004: 117), and in giving voice to the previously voiceless. Focusing on two of the rural art-making projects which have emerged in South Africa since the early 1990s in response to the complex challenges of the post-apartheid era—the Amazwi Abesifazane initiative and the Mapula Embroidery Project—this paper examines the voices of women through visual narrative in dealing with issues of trauma, violence and HIV/AIDS, as well as the potential offered by visual culture for empowerment of these women within the context of the relationship of marginalization, poverty, and representation. By ensuring a continuous engagement with memory of history, both public and private, these women are enabling narrative expansion to the restrictive testimonial practices of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), thereby contributing towards filling in the ‘gaps and silences’ of South Africa’s contested past.

Keywords: Visual Narrative, South Africa, Empowerment, Rural Art, Voices of Women

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp.13-32. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.327MB).

Prof. Annette Blum

Associate Professor, Faculty of Design, OCAD University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Annette Blum, MA, BFA, RGD, obtained her M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies at York University in Toronto, her Fine Arts degree at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and studied graphic design at OCAD University in Toronto and the Salzburg Academy of Fine Arts in Austria. With her background in and passion for both the fine arts as well as graphic design, her work has investigated the convergence of traditional and new media, as well as the relationship between society, culture and design. Her current research interests include women’s visual culture in South Africa, and the use of art and design for empowerment of rural women in post-apartheid South Africa. Annette has been teaching Communication and Information Design at OCAD University since 1997, and at York University since 1999. Her work has been exhibited in Canada, South Africa, Austria, the United States and England.


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