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Postcards from Africa: Afrique Occidentale - Senegal - Saint Louis. Un Coin de Guet N’Dar

Sue Williamson
Postcards from Africa: Afrique Occidentale - Senegal - Saint Louis. Un Coin de Guet N’Dar, 2019
Ink on Yupo synthetic archival paper and hand engraved museum glass
Work: 70 x 100 cm

Williamson’s new series of drawings, Postcards from Africa, continues the artist’s interest in the power of a small printed image to carry news of a specific moment in time to a far off audience, sometimes current, sometimes separated from the event by a century. Her early series of etchings The Modderdam Postcards (1978) was based on sketches made over seven days while witnessing the destruction by the apartheid state of an informal settlement near the airport in Cape Town. Postcards made from A Few South Africans (1983-86), mixed media portraits of heroic women active in the struggle for liberation, were distributed not only across the country but the world. Most recently, the artist has turned her attention to vintage postcards of photographs taken by European colonisers in Africa in the first decades of the 20th century, who used the postcards as examples of the success of their missions, supposedly demonstrating the civilising effect of colonisation on the colonised, or presenting views of exotic Africa.  Sourcing these postcards from museum archives or from the internet, Williamson reverts to classic drawing techniques. She dips her pen into a bottle of ink, building up images with layers of intricate cross-hatching, adding colour from a limited palette to reproduce the rural landscapes on the postcards, or capture the scenes of daily community life: harvesting, swimming, gathering wood.