Collection: Faces & Figures: Identity Through Printmaking in South Africa

Faces & Figures: Identity Through Printmaking in South Africa is a student-curated exhibition that explores artists’ expressions of identity in contemporary South Africa through the lens of printmaking. The artists are alumni and current students of the Artist Proof Studio (APS), a community printmaking center of excellence in Johannesburg, South Africa. Featuring over 100 prints by 40 artists from throughout southern Africa, the prints range in technique, style, and subject matter, drawing inspiration from South African popular culture and history as well as personal narratives. Embracing the spirit of self-awareness and innovation central to APS, these artists offer a glimpse into the complexities of personal and collective identity in Johannesburg.

For over 30 years, APS has been committed to being a center of learning and community engagement, providing educational opportunities for passionate art students who otherwise would not have access to higher education. Co-founders Kim Berman and Nhlanhla Xabo established APS in 1991, as South Africa was transitioning into the post-apartheid era. Apartheid was a racist and oppressive political system in which the white minority ruled over the Black majority from 1948-1994. Using the historic medium of printmaking as a tool for social and political expression, APS uses art to foster a space for democracy and respect. The organization’s mission is to cultivate talented individuals with a shared set of values grounded in the African concept of Ubuntu, or shared humanity,  and empower them to achieve artistic excellence. Through printmaking and outreach programs, they aim to build capacity, promote self-actualization, and make a positive impact on society.

Faces & Figures highlights three social contributors shaping urban life in the city – Migration, Family and Community, and Gender Roles. These driving forces influence the artists’ sense of self and their interactions with the world around them. Both internal and international migration are represented in the multicultural makeup of the artists whose work reflects the cultural vibrancy and diverse demographics of Johannesburg. The concept of family is represented as something that extends beyond merely blood ties, but rather something that encompasses broader community networks where collective support and solidarity thrive. The interconnectedness of individuals underscores a culture of mutual respect, shared responsibility, and communal well-being.  Traditional gender roles in South Africa are shifting, challenging restrictive stereotypes that shape behavior and expectations especially as more women enter the workforce. Artists navigate these changing dynamics and overturn traditional notions of the feminine and masculine.

The exhibited works explore aspects of South Africa’s history and how the country has been shaped by indigenous African cultures, European colonization, migration, and the struggle for equality during and after apartheid. Following the end of apartheid, activist Nelson Mandela was released from prison, becoming the country’s first democratically elected president in 1994. At this time, South Africa embarked on a path of racial reconciliation, exemplified by initiatives like the landmark Truth and Reconciliation Commission and constitutional reforms.

Today, South Africa strives to embody the “Rainbow Nation” concept, or the vision of a multiracial, multicultural, and multilingual democratic society that embraces and celebrates the country’s differences. Still, challenges persist, including poverty, economic inequality, corruption, and crime. The works on display demonstrate the artists’ efforts to reconcile these challenges while celebrating life in Johannesburg. At the heart of this reconciliation lies their dedication to expressing Ubuntu principles in their art.


Featured Artists

Ilse Pahl · Kelebogile Masilo · Obakeng Masilo · Khumo Ramaila · Mohau Mohalane · Manelisi Vilakazi · Hloriso H · Thando Ndima · Amogelang Tsele · Mncedisi Mkhize · James Ndlovu · Lehlohonolo Mapheto · Caylon · Jason Langa · Lesego Ditshego · Sandile Ndabukelwayo · Tony Maphosa · Thamsanqa Mfuphi · Nwabisa · Seza Zitha · Thobani Creative · Noluthando · Drujorn Brint · Thulani Lava · LT Ntsala · Sukazi · Onkgopotse Mahlanya · Bonginkosi · M Ndaba · Maswana · Cylindartist · Xhobani · Ndivhuwa ·Samukelo Gqola · Lebohang Motaung · Sifiso Temba · Ramarutha Makoba  David Madlabane · Kgabo · Thandiwe Khumalo



  Please use the following address at checkout and not an international address:
 ADDRESS: 36 Boundary Road, Houghton Estate 
 PROVINCE: Gauteng 

 Disclaimer: Artworks in this collection are currently at the George Mason University and are currently only available for purchase for viewers of the exhibition.

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