Victor Gordon's apartheid images return to South African National Gallery

ORANGE artist Victor Gordon is celebrating  after two of his works were chosen for the permanent collection of a national gallery.

Azikwele (We will not ride) - Fair Raize 1983 and Amandla (Power) - Punch and Jury Show 1989, will hang in the South African National Gallery in Cape Town.

Mr Gordon produced the works at a time in South Africa when it was dangerous to produce images that portrayed violence against the non-white population.

Extraordinarily, he managed to leave South Africa undetected with many of his artworks, which symbolised the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

Some have hung on  the walls of his home, however, Mr Gordon  does not mind parting with the works knowing they will have a wider audience.

“As an artist it really is such an honour,” he said.

“It is extremely significant for me that I have had that recognition from the gallery.”

Azikwele depicts a burning bus, which was a symbol of protest by black South Africans who, under the oppressive regime, had their public transport fares increased to levels they could not afford.

The second, much smaller piece Amandla shows a red fist, which was an Afrikaans power salute symbol, on top of a traditional African hair comb and embedded in a “necklace” of black tyre, which was used as a tool to threaten or kill so-called collaborators accused of working with the government to suppress the black population.

“I actually found the comb, which is central to the work, outside the library in Johannesburg,” he said.

The “necklaces” of rubber tyre were forced over the heads and shoulders of a victim, drenched in petrol and set alight as a warning to others.

“For the background I used the same pattern that is painted on a Zulu shield,” Mr Gordon said.

Mr Gordon transferred the images of brutality he saw in South Africa into works of art that have been exhibited across the world.

“At the time it was an offence to photograph or paint anything that would put the South African government in a negative light,” he said.

However, he took the risk and today thousands of South Africans will see his images on the walls of the National Gallery in Cape Town and at travelling exhibitions.

Other works feature prominently in the IFA LETHU Collection, which is  on display in the gallery at the University of South Africa in Pretoria.

One large image is of a black South African man lying in a pool of blood after being shot by police.

This image too, could have landed Mr Gordon in jail if he was caught painting the brutality of the regime.

The exhibition is set to tour the United Kingdom in June and will be on display in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games.

janice.harris@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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