Who were the women who formed the backbone of the liberation struggle in South Africa, and who, after the complicated birth of democracy, have continued to make their voices heard? Goodman Gallery presents All Our Mothers – an ongoing series of photographic portraits – in which one of South Africa’s most important living artists, Sue Williamson, attempts to address this question.
All Our Mothers follows Williamson’s critically acclaimed exhibition, Testimony, held at Goodman Gallery London in 2021 and marks the first time that that this important body of work will be exhibited in the UK. The ongoing series spans four decades, from the 1980s through to the present day, and provides an invaluable record of the undervalued role of women in South African history.
The courageous women captured in this series faced down the apartheid security police, they were imprisoned, they fought to prevent State demolition of their homes, they marched in the streets to protest against ‘non-European’ women carrying identity passes, they were deported after their partners were killed in jail, they left the country to continue the struggle from beyond its borders – some forced into exile.
Sue Williamson (b. 1941, Lichfield, UK) emigrated with her family to South Africa in 1948. In the 1970s, Williamson started to make work which addressed social change and by the late 1980s she was well known for her series of portraits of women involved in the country’s political struggle, titled A Few South Africans (1980s).
Major international solo exhibitions include: Can’t Remember, Can’t Forget at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg (2017); Other Voices, Other Cities at the SCAD Museum of Art in Georgia, USA (2015), Messages from the Moat, Den Haag, Netherlands (2003) and The Last Supper Revisited (2002) at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. Williamson has participated in biennales around the world, including the Kochi Muziris Biennale (2019); several Havana Biennales as well as Sydney, Istanbul, Venice and Johannesburg biennales. Group exhibitions include, Resist: the 1960s Protests, Photography and Visual Legacy (2018) at BOZAR in Brussels; Women House (2017, 2018) at La Monnaie de Paris and National Museum for Women in the Arts (Washington D.C); Citizens: Artists and Society Tate Modern, London; Being There (2017) at Fondation Louis Vuitton (Paris) and Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life (2014) at the International Centre for Photography New York and the Museum Africa (Johannesburg), curated by Okwui Enwezor, and The Short Century (2001-2) also curated by Okwui Enwezor, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, House of World Cultures, Berlin, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and P.S.1 New York.
Williamson’s works feature in museum collections, ranging from the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Tate Modern (London), Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Pompidou Centre, (Paris), Hammer Museum, (Los Angeles) to the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution (Washington D.C), Iziko South African National Gallery (Cape Town) and the Johannesburg Art Gallery (Johannesburg). Williamson has authored two books - South African Art Now (2009) and Resistance Art in South Africa (1989). In 1997, Williamson founded www.artthrob.co.za, a leading website on South African contemporary art and the first of its kind in the country. Awards and fellowships include The Living Legends Award (2020), attributed by the South African government’s Department of Sports, Arts and Culture; the University of Johannesburg’s Ellen Kuzwayo Award (2018); the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Creative Arts Fellowship (2011); the Smithsonian’s Visual Artist Research Award Fellowship (2007) and the Lucas Artists Residency Fellowship (2005) from Montalvo Art Center in California.
Williamson lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.Download full CV