Between Union and Liberation: Women Artists in South Africa 1910-1994, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Between Union and Liberation

Women Artists in South Africa 1910-1994, 1st Edition

Edited by Marion Arnold, Brenda Schmahmann


254 pages

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The essays collected here investigate art made by women in South Africa between 1910, the year of Union, and 1994, the year of the first democratic election. During this period, complex political circumstances and the impact of modernism in South Africa affected the production of images and objects. The essays explore the ways in which the socio-political circumstances associated with twentieth-century modernity had a paradoxical impact on women. If some were empowered, others were disadvantaged: while some were able to further their social and cultural development and expression, the advancement of others was impeded. The contributors study the lives and achievements of women - named and un-named, black and white, and from different cultural groups and social contexts - and consider objects and images that are historically associated with both 'art' and 'craft'. In all the essays, gender theory is related to South African circumstances. The volume explores gender theory in relation to twentieth-century visual culture and discusses economic conditions and regional geographies as well as notions of identity. It investigates the influence of educational and cultural institutions, the role of theory on art practice, debates about material culture, the power of nationalist ideologies and the role of feminist theories in a changing country. A wide range of visual images and objects provide the touchstone for debate and analysis - paintings, sculptures, photography, baskets, tapestries, embroideries and ceramics - so that the book is richly visual and celebrates the diversity of South African art made by women.


'This is a remarkable celebration of the creative endeavours of women artists in south Africa from 1910 to 1994' Women's History Magazine

Between Union and Liberation is an admirable book and fulfils its task competently within its specified parameters… it makes a constructive contribution to the discourse.’ De Art April 2006

’This is an important book and its essays make significant contributions to the field of art history in South Africa. They bring forth new material and offer fresh insights into old material. Gathered here, they confront gender biases and sexism within art historical discourse and social practice. We can only benefit from such a book.’ H-New Book Review, Feb 06

Between Union and Liberation: Women Artists in South Africa 1910-1994 is a valuable book for several reasons…The book underscores tensions among people with similar skin colors, thus it counters the popular notion (troublingly prevalent outside of South Africa) that identity in the twentieth century was reduced to black and white.’ African Arts

Table of Contents

Contents: Visual culture in context: the implications of Union and Liberation, Marion Arnold; Florence Phillips, patronage and the arts at the time of Union, Jillian Carman; European modernism and African domicile: women painters and the search for identity, Marion Arnold; Constance Stuart Larrabee's photographs of the Ndzundza Ndebele: performance and history beyond the modernist frame, Brenda Danilowitz; Art, gender ideology and Afrikaner nationalism - a case study, Liese van der Watt; Technologies and transformations: baskets, women and change in 20th-century KwaZulu-Natal, Nessa Leibhammer; Breaking the mould: women ceramists in KwaZulu-Natal, Wilma Cruise; On pins and needles: gender politics and embroidery projects before the first democratic election, Brenda Schmahmann; Narratives of migration in the works of Noria Mabasa and Mmakgabo Sebidi, Jacqueline Nolte; Representing regulation - rendering resistance: female bodies in the art of Penny Siopis, Brenda Schmahmann; Index.

About the Editors

Marion Arnold is an independent art historian who lived and worked in South Africa for two decades and is now resident in the United Kingdom. Brenda Schmahmann is Professor and Head of the Fine Art Department at Rhodes University, South Africa.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / History / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Women's Studies