Tagged as: Lionel Davis

Awakenings: impulses and threads in the art of Lionel Davis

By Mario Pissarra

This text first appeared on Davis’ artist page on asai.co.za in 2014

Lionel Davis is a significant figure in South African art circles. Core elements of his personal biography are well known, and his contribution as an artist is integral to accounts of seminal art organisations such as the Community Arts Project, Vakalisa, and the Thupelo Workshop. His early history as a District Six resident and political prisoner has made him an invaluable resource for post apartheid heritage projects, such as the District Six and Robben Island Museums. An articulate, charismatic and sociable personality, Davis is popular and respected, with an active public life and media presence.

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Maskerade – Exhibition Review

by Bridget Thompson

Review of ‘Maskerade’ by Lionel Davis, Association of Visual Arts, August 2009.
This text was originally published on Davis’ artist page on asai.co.za, August 2009.

Lionel Davis is for the first time at 70 plus working as a full- time artist.

His life has traversed childhood and youth in District 6, political activism and imprisonment on Robben Island, two years of art training at Rorke’s Drift, many contributions to the social practice of art like running the Community Arts Project silkscreen workshop for 8 years, participating in the annual Thupelo workshops for more than 20 years, formal study at UCT where he gained a BAFA in 1995, back to Robben Island as a tour guide for 10 years and now finally full time artist.

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Picking Up the Strands of Our Heritage

by Garth King

This text was originally published on Davis’ artist page on asai.co.za

Muizenberg artist Lionel Davis, 77, had a special connection with Nelson Mandela — as a fellow political prisoner in the B-Section of Robben Island’s Maximum Security Prison in the 1960s.

Initially, B-Section held about 30 prisoners — including some common-law prisoners — but was later reserved for those in the struggle leadership or those seen as potentially influential among the political prisoners. All were held in single cells but were exercised in the prison yard daily for an hour and often worked together in the yard, breaking stones or in the lime quarry on the island.

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Recalling The Natal Visual Arts Organisation: a roundtable conversation

Proceedings of a conversation with Sfiso ka Mkame, Thami Jali, Paul Sibisi and Zamani Makhanya, moderated by Mario Pissarra, with contributions from Scott Williams and Russel Hlongwane. 

Editorial note: Participants arrived at various times during the morning, leading to certain points being revisited with different inputs.

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The Imvaba Arts Collective: A brief history of its activities and significance (1)

By Eben Lochner

As political conditions were changing following the unbanning of political prisoners on 2 Feb 1990 there was a sense among activists that the conditions and goals of their work would shift. Already, activist and Judge Albie Sachs made an infamous call in 1989 to ban the use of art as a weapon of struggle. This drew responses from various cultural activists that challenged the legitimacy of his assessment of the state of art in South Africa as well as his suggestion for moving forward. (2) Inherent in Sachs’ critique was the idea that artwork representing the political struggle was somehow not appropriate for a new democracy. This was due to a shallow agit-prop visual culture which relied on re-using the same slogans for legitimacy and disregarded aesthetic quality. Examining the history of the Imvaba arts collective in Port Elizabeth gives us insight into the productive role played by artists in visually articulating vision for a new South Africa. In this article I will show that Imvaba’s approach to art was not about simple sloganeering, but the promotion of a value system that was believed to be vital to a non-racial South Africa.

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