Community Arts Project Print Collection

The Community Arts Project (CAP) Collection was acquired by the CHR at UWC in 2009 through a donation from the Arts and Media Access Centre (AMAC), which had previously operated as CAP. The collection consists of various bodies of visual work, including paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, posters and prints, mainly linocuts.

Many of the works in the CAP Print Collection focus on the anti-apartheid struggle, and the experiences and living conditions of people in townships and squatter camps. Others deal with a variety of other themes and subjects, including rural life, workers’ struggles, colonialism, music, children, Cape Town, animal rights, women and gender issues, religion and education. The collection also includes landscapes, portraits, and tributes to historical figures. In addition, there are also commemorations of important events that have shaped the course of South African history and politics, such as Sharpeville, the uprisings of 1976 and the destruction of District Six. Collectively, the works reflect a shift away from the resistance art of the pre-1994 era towards a broader, more open-ended narrative about human experience and imagination in the Western Cape in the postapartheid era.

In general, the CAP Print Collection represents a world of creativity far removed from the art of the mainstream art world. It is a particularly important collection because it contributes to understanding the cultural, social and political consciousness of the Western Cape, and the heritage of the region. Moreover, the collection provokes a consideration of issues such as agency, empowerment, received categories of hierarchical distinction, such as the high art/low art dichotomy, exclusions and omissions from the South African art canon, and the desire of the politically subjugated to be human through creativity. As all archives open to the future, the collection also stimulates thinking about issues pertaining to notions affecting the human in the postapartheid present, among them the collapse of the community arts movement after 1994, the erosion of a broad-based cultural citizenship, the hyper-professionalism of the art world in which arts and culture function as mega-business (as distinct from the idea of art as a process of humanisation and empowerment), and the decline of creative education in an instrumentalised world, weighted towards science and business education.

Represented in the collection are artists such as Billy Mandindi, Robert Siwangaza, Henry de Leeuw, Sophie Peters, Solomon Siko, Lionel Davis, David Hlongwane, Jon Berndt, Clive Benjamin, Sydney Holo, Xolani Somana, Mpathi Gocini, Thami Kiti, Alfred Budaza, Xolani Somana, Vuyisani Mgijima and Xolile Mtakatya. All of these printmakers were featured on the exhibition, ‘Uncontained: Opening the Community Arts Project Archive’ (Art.b Gallery and Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, 2013 / 2013), which showcased the prints from the CAP Collection.