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Sue Williamson (South African, born England, 1941)
Winnie Mandela and the Assassination of Dr. Asvat
Photo lithograph and chine-collé with 3M Scotchcal Marking Film on paper
24 x 74 inches
Edition of 12. Published by Brodsky Center, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Collaborating Master Printer: Eileen Foti.

Sue williamson

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Trained as a printmaker and designer, since the 1980s Sue Williamson has employed her photography to collaborate with her subjects.  Her work has been dedicated in large part to exploring stories and experiences in apartheid and post–1990 South Africa.  “By mediating through art, the myriad images and information offered for public consumption in the mass media,” Williamson says, “I try to give dispassionate readings and offer a focus and new opportunities for engagement.  Art can provide a distance and a space for such considerations.”

Her “Truth Games” series, comprising this print, probes the imperfect work of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission for restorative justice (ca. 1996–2000), an attempt to unearth events that occurred under apartheid and warfare, and provide acknowledgment and recommendations. 

The images used in this photo lithograph are lifted from news articles covering the assassination of activist and family doctor Abu Baker Asvat, for which the Commission found morally accountable Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist and former wife of late activist and President of South Africa Nelson Mandela.

Close-ups of the opposing parties bookend the crime location and victim.  Pictures are overlaid with translucent film insets, printed with fragments of text from testimonials, as they were reported in the news.  Words speak to incommensurable acts of violence, loss, guilt, confusion, and terror. Reflective of the televised montage of the broadcast Truth and Reconciliation Commission sessions, at the time, in “Truth Games” photographs become as heavy as objects, like blackboards magnifying messages, or like windows concealing familial tragedies.

In fact, Williamson mounted most of the “Truth Games” photographic prints on wood panels. The photographs are segmented horizontally with metal bars, along which visitor can move the translucent text fragments, which have been etched on Plexiglas sheets.  As they slide speech and assign it to either side, visitors conceal the image portion behind it.  In so doing, artist and audience reenact a circular uncertainty of culpability and injury, fabrications and truth, which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process and participants painfully explored.