This each other. These eight individual regions were


essay will examine the text, Visual Culture in Context: the
implications of union and liberation, (Arnold 2005).”  Dr Marion Arnold is a practising artist and
printmaker with major collections exhibited in South Africa. Having originally
resided in Zimbabwe and South Africa, Arnold is now a lecturer in Fine Art Practice
at Loughborough University. What
will be addressed in the essay and in what order  Part 1 will summarise and contextualise the
text in detail, outlining its core concerns.  Part II will expand upon these in relation to
art works and practices and finally, in Part III I will begin to relate this to
my own working practices.

the beginning Arnold defines the idea of ‘Union’: how political union was
something that would arguably never work in the country, due to white minority
rule and the backlash from the other, mainly black, groups. Arnold then
continues by discussing what this meant in South Africa in the 20th
century. The text is set between 1911 and 1994 in the years when Apartheid was
in full force. Apartheid is “a policy or system of segregation and discrimination
on the grounds of race.” (OED,2018) She outlines the way that there were eight
separate communities, all with their own cultures and traditions, in South
Africa at this time, all of which were segregated from (and felt antipathy
towards) each other. These eight individual regions were joined together by a
white English and Dutch minority government that resembled that in Europe.  As pointed out by Arnold,

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The political process of bringing parts
together is seldom devoid of tension as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Northern Ireland … and the United States of America all discovered after
attempting to establish national identities after territorial mergers (Arnold,

her view on the barriers to political union at that time.

states how the activist Olive Schreiner (1855-1920) predicted the dangers, based
on the way other countries had struggled. The white minority rule created large
subdivisions within the regions with a very evident hierarchy of not only race but
also, in many communities, gender.  The
text focuses on the key points around the racial politics and the supressed
people of South Africa, including the white and black women, and how this
impact on people’s lives went on to affect visual culture in South Africa.

main argument that Arnold makes in the text is about how apartheid and the
years between union and liberation effected the visual culture by women in
South Africa.  In the years of apartheid,
but also post liberation, women were treated as unequal and lower than the men in
all the different communities. White women were thought of as inferior to white
men and Black women were viewed as inferior to the black men.  The endemic sexism is not something not often
considered when discussing South Africa but is clearly shown in their voting
system. The white minority government was run by men for men. Up until 1930,
only men over the age 18 were able to vote as women were not included in the
definition of ‘adult’. At this point, the white women over 18 were granted
suffrage however this wasn’t given to advantage the women, it was given to
decrease the percentage of the black majority vote. 

1911, the white South African population was only 9.5% of the total population
of South Africa (South African History Online, 2018) but the white people were at
the top of the hierarchy and treated the black people with violence and segregation.
The black people had to have their own churches, schools and had to sit
separately from the white people on public transport. The black education
system was inferior to the education given to white children and native
languages were not used. The black young people received a very limited
education which didn’t include creative and cultural elements. For black young
people, knowledge of their cultural heritage and their creativity was developed
within their communities and outside the education system. This included “‘Craft’
and three-dimensional objects such as pots and headrests which, Europeans
assumed, were exclusively functional.” (Arnold, 2005.) Because of this major difference
in education between black and white children, white female artists were more
likely to have the money and opportunity to be professionally trained but black
women had to be taught in their communities or self-taught. Even if there were
made into a museum the work was never truly acknowledged resulting in a lot of authorless
work. This was at a time in Europe when “fine art” was done by educated white
people, predominantly male. This led to the black south African art being viewed
as authorless artefacts that only belonged in museums with no credit to the
artist. At this time, in Europe, modernism played a central role in the fine
arts, with movements such as Dadaism, surrealism and an abstract art being the
main collections in galleries. However, the women artists of South Africa, who
had their own views and ways of creating art, refused to move towards these
modernist styles meaning that their works were not seen as “Fine art” by the
rest of the world. Women artists, such as the ones mentioned in Arnold’s text, used
their own identities and nationalities as the key influences in their work.
Many of the artists would use the skills they had learnt from their original
communities such as storytelling through quilt making but also trying to move
away from female stereotypes of art and not just creating crafts, unlike their
female counterparts in Europe who struggled to compete to get their work viewed
equally to male artists.

Part 2


“Less than 5% of artists in the modern art
sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.” (guerrilla girls, 1989)
the guerrilla girls are a group of anonymous, feminist, presumably female,
artists. They create posters and prints on posters and billboards and trying
get them into mass media with a focus on gender and race equality in the art world.
In the text, Arnold speaks about suppressed female artists in South Africa.
Although they are from different backgrounds with different experiences of
suppression both groups have worked through their difficulties, as women, to
try and get their artworks to be seen by viewers no matter the consequences.
Unlike the South African women artists whose main goals would just be able to
produce work, the work of the guerrilla artists is made with the purpose of
spreading a message to his viewers and trying to infiltrate mass culture.





structures remain within the male dominant in the UK. In the 2017 election 442
of 650 (BBC News, 2017) were
male members of parliament voted in. An all time high for the percentage of
women MPs but still only at 32%. In South Africa, post-apartheid maintains a
predominantly male orientated system with women still subject to institutional
sexism within modern society. Our built environment with historic buildings and
skylines similarly convey a male dominated environment in terms of design of
the built environment and the purpose of the building and in reflecting the
life with the buildings whose traditionally a male hierarchy has dominated in
all aspects. Men still dominate in the board rooms and across industry, men
continue to dominate across many aspects of life. The work of female artists
who have started from a perspective of repression have influenced how I reflect
on the world when considering my current pieces of work.

wanted to explore the structures we see in everyday life but rarely think
about; the world in which familiar structures were developed in. as a female in
modern society I still see the essence of a male dominated world, this must be
far more intense and evident in South Africa where the outside world and
internal political structures remain the male environments that have changed in
colour but not in gender.

 I have
been looking at how masculine our everyday cityscapes and buildings are, and
this started to affect how I was viewing my work. To start collecting research,
I visited a building site to help gather ideas and began to realise that all
the workers were in fact male creating very large angular structures most
likely designed by men (according to architects Journal only 21% of British
architects are women.) I have recently created sculptures based on the bold
harsh lines and angles that surrounded me on the site

This went on to influence me beginning to
combine textile and stitch with structure. Stitch can now and has always been
viewed as very effeminate art. After previously looking at the ideas of
structure being masculine, I wanted to try and find a way to soften it and can
create a delicacy to my work.


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