WILLIE BESTER CENSORED
Andries Loots 11February 2001
artist Willie Bester was told on Friday, the 9 th of February 2001 that some
of his work
was 'not African enough' and that it was too aggressive to be shown at an
exhibition here in Cape Town.
Philip Todres was approached by the events organizer to provide quality
South African art for the event in Fernwood attended by members of
parliament. Willie was
approached by Philip to exhibit works at this exhibition and
provided the following three works :
|Detail of ' War Dog '||'Saartje Baartman'|
|According to an article in the daily newspaper
Die Burger, 10 February, "when the works were erected at the
site the onlookers were fascinated
by them" Mr. Todres was later told by the events organizers that ANC member Mr. Tony
Yengeni was not satisfied with the work as it was "not African enough" and
also that the "War Dog" was too aggressive.
When I approached Mr. Todres, he could not provide me with more specific details. After hearing what happened, Willie requested Mr. Todres to withdraw all the works from the exhibition.
Mr. Todres and the organizers of this event were privileged to get these important works by an internationally acclaimed artist, who is currently preparing for some major solo exhibitions locally and abroad. The sculptures have never been shown in public before and weigh between 200 - 300 kg each.
I think it is a shame that an artist like Willie Bester, who was recognized for his role played in the struggle against apartheid, is now censored by the very same people that he defended. He has every right to be outraged and to feel insulted. Maybe it was good in the past to address injustices by producing resistance art to comment on daily issues but now the people in power don't want to face these matters. The " Saartjie Baartman " sculpture is not that much of a dilemma as it can still be used to criticize colonialism for what it has done wrong, and " Mandela " tapestry is good enough as everybody is familiar with his friendly face, but please no guns and aggression as we are living in Africa were there are no such things.... The "War Dog" sculpture could easily be used to address the recent attacks on various people by police dogs and to show that nothing has changed since the apartheid regime, people are still treated like animals. One cannot but wonder if " War Dog " was maybe not too close to the current Arms Deal investigation ? Or is it a matter of not recognizing quality art ? It is a pity that Mr. Todres who has staged various high profile exhibitions like this, did not pursue the matter further.
But is this not what Willie Bester's art is about - that one cannot stand in front of his work without being challenged ?
front page article 'Cape Times' 16 February 2002
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