People protest against injustice in all kinds of ways – through marching, writing, composing songs, downing tools, and occasionally even through threats of violence. Art can be a powerful voice of protest against a political system, and a way of influencing people’s thoughts and opinions.
Art has sometimes been described as a “mirror which reflects society back to itself”, and artists who feel strongly enough will confront society with its injustices, through their images. In the 1960s
and 1970s in South Africa, many artists were persecuted by the apartheid government for creating images that drew attention to the injustices of that oppressive system. Some artists and photographers faced charges in court – and in some cases served jail terms – because they made images that challenged those in authority. Many works of art, literature and music were officially censored or banned during that time.
In 1979, at a conference of artists and art historians called “State of the Art” in Cape Town, a resolution was proposed that art-making be consciously used towards bringing about political change. It was around that time that “resistance art” became the term artists used to talk about their practice in the fight against apartheid.
Reading images for information
How much can we discover?
Times change. Can artworks provide us with insights into a different time or place?
Let’s talk about how we “read” images. When you “read” an image, you look for familiar visual signs that you might understand either literally, or as symbols or signs of something else. Both can tell us much about other times and places.
Images, even when they look like straightforward representations of things, sometimes carry deeper meaning – or their meaning may have changed over time. So to fully understand a picture, we might need to understand the significance of certain objects at the time when the picture
Look closely at the details you will find in each of the images, both the paintings and the photographs. Think about what they tell us about life at that time.