With respect to Nelson Mandela on his birthday

Sue Williamson, 30 Years Next to His Heart

Sue Williamson, 30 Years Next to His Heart

Today is the birthday of Nelson Mandela, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of South Africa. He is 95.

This is an appropriate time to consider a South African work in VMFA’s collection. Sue Williamson, a South African artist, found this object in a thrift shop. It’s a pass book, and a remnant of Apartheid. Much like a passport, all blacks were required to carry pass books, containing fingerprints, photo and information on access to non-black areas.This document had to be carried at all times, as non-compliance with South African race laws were dealt with harshly. Entitled “30 Years Next to His Heart,” this well-worn book’s pages tracked the activities of its owner for 30 years of his life.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison and was released in 1990. He and then-President F.W. de Klerk were honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. A year later, Mandela was elected first black president of the Republic of South Africa in the first open election in the country’s history.

This work was recently on view, but as with all works on paper, it has been removed to storage to rest. Other South African works on view now at VMFA include:

Children of Pomfret at the Entrance to the Incline Shaft, David Goldblatt
Walking Man, William Kentridge
Zonophone, Siemon Allen
Zulu snuff container
Zulu headrest
Zulu beaded leather pouch
Zulu beaded armband
Nguni snuff spoons
Nguni beaded doll
Ndebele beaded apron
Ndebele beaded apron

– Suzanne Hall, Chief Communications Officer