A salute to SA’s female artists

Penny Siopsis: "Charmed Lives"

Artist Penny Siopsis and her work “Charmed Lives”.

A number of bold South African female artists paved the way for many others. During Women’s Month we celebrate their boldness, tenacity and, of course, their incredible creativity.

Images courtesy Red! the Gallery.

Irma Stern

Irma Stern left behind an incredible artistic legacy.

Irma Stern (1894-1966)

Stern is still considered to be South Africa’s foremost artist in terms of public recognition and the record prices her works fetch at auction. Her strong interest in portraying black people was also a point of public controversy, especially in the 1930s. Visit the Irma Stern Museum in Cape Town.

Irma Stern. Congo Natives

“Congo Natives” by Irma Stern.

Maggie Laubser (1886-1973)

Laubser was influential at the time for introducing the techniques and sensibilities of Post-Impressionism and Expressionism to South African art. Her bold colours and compositions, and highly personal point of view, rather scandalised those with old-fashioned concepts of acceptable art at the time.

Judith Mason (1938 – )

Mason was selected to represent South Africa at the Venice Biennale, and at international art fairs such as Art Basel, despite South Africa’s political isolation from the rest of the world. After living and teaching in Florence, Italy, for a while, she returned to South Africa and her work became part of the South African school and university curricula.

Sue Williamson (1941 – )

In the 1980s, Williamson was well known for her series of portraits of women involved in the country’s political struggle. Her famous painting titled, “A Few South Africans”, went some way towards filling the representational void of people and events during apartheid.

Sue Williamson Profile

Portrait of Sue Williamson.

Winnie Mandela by Sue Williamson.

“Winnie Mandela” by Sue Williamson.

Mmapula Mmakgoba Helen Sebidi (1943 – )

Born in 1943 in Hammanskraal near the then-Northern Transvaal, Sebidi went from high-school dropout to domestic worker and then renowned international artist. Against all odds, Sebidi stopped at nothing to become the internationally recognised artist she is today. Sebidi draws her inspiration from township life, and received The Order of the Baobab for “making an excellent contribution in the field of visual and traditional arts and crafts”.

Mmapula Sebidi


Mmakgabo Mapula Helen Sebidi’s “The Tree of Being”.

Penny Siopis (1953 – )

Penny Siopis tackled femininity and history in dense, allusive paintings, installations, photographs and other conceptual works throughout her career. She introduced the techniques of collage and assemblage as a means to disrupt direct depiction and to introduce references to the representations of colonial history in South African textbooks.

Penny Siopis. watermelon

Jane Alexander (1959 – )

Born in 1959, Jane is best known for her sculpture, “The Butcher Boys”, which can be considered her response to the state of emergency in South Africa in the late 1980s. Most of her pieces are based on and influenced by the political and social overview of South Africa.

Jane Alexander.

Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander. Butcher Boys

“The Butcher Boys” by Jane Alexander.

Article courtesy: Red! the Gallery  and South Africa Info Arts and Culture

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