South African apartheid in paint and color

A Whitworth professor and African artists exhibit their work

Courtney Harmon
Staff Writer

We have all heard of the history surrounding apartheid and discrimination that occurred in South Africa, but what does it look like?

Kenyan artist Jackie Karuti sought to portray the experience in a piece that tells the story of a man on the other side of apartheid, discriminating against the African race and their rights.
The painting is full of deep orange and red tones that give the viewers a sense of the subject’s pain after he has a change of heart about the acts he has committed against South African men and women.

Karuti’s piece shows his hand reaching above bars as he is beginning to understand what it means to forgive and be forgiven. It is a piece full of dark emotion and expression.
This painting can be viewed along with many others in the exhibit “Between the Shadow and the Light,” in the Lied Art Center through Oct. 28.

In June 2013 educators and artists from the United States and six African countries met in South Africa to participate in “R5: A Visual Arts Studio and Seminar in South Africa.”
The group consisted of nine men and women from the U.S. and 10 men and women from African countries including Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The participants learned about the culture and history of South Africa through what art Professor Katie Creyts referred to as “intense art camp.”

Through learning about the deep history of South Africa and hearing stories of the people, the artists collaborated to create this exhibit.

All the artists based their work off of five African art themes referred to as R5: Remembrance, Resistance, Reconciliation. Representation, and Re-visioning.
Walking around the art exhibit, the five themes are apparent, helping students connect with each piece.

“Everything here is very visual and easy to understand,” Freshman Michael Ong said.
Even though he may not be someone well versed in the art world, he still found the art displayed in “Between the Shadow and the Light” to be moving. Ong said he felt he had a greater understanding of South African history and thetroubles its citizens have endured after going to the exhibit.

Many students attending the opening on September 13th said they felt similar to Ong.
The pieces displayed in the exhibit portray an array of emotions. While some show strong feelings of pain and anger, others are filled with new beginnings and forgiveness.
Those emotions give the viewers a deeper understanding of the five themes on which the project is based.

“I like all the colors they use,” freshman Celeste Jensen said.  “It reminds me of fire [and] pain.”
Jensen said she does not know too much about art, but still understood the pieces.
The collection in many ways shows hardships and pain that the people of South Africa have endured.

While the artists involved in the project were focused solely on South Africa, the art ended up having strong connections to Whitworth as well.
Jensen said she found the art easy to understand because it connects to the diversity here at Whitworth.