The Silent Revolutionary: an interview with Judy Ann Seidman

by Sipho Mdanda

Judy Ann Seidman is a visual artist and cultural activist with a long history of producing politically and socially engaged work. Born in the USA in 1951, she moved with her parents to newly independent Ghana and subsequently lived most of her life in the frontline states, before moving to South Africa in 1990.

Sipho Mdanda: What are your earliest memories of encounters with art and art-making and how old were you when you decided to be an artist, if that is your preferred title?

Judy Ann Seidman: My grandmother was an artist, a life-long political activist, feminist and pacifist.  So I was brought up with art-making, particularly art-making as an act of political activism. When I was five or six, I announced that I wanted to be a painter or a pirate (pirate was not a practical career choice, of course).

SM: What artists did you look to for inspiration?

JAS: Early influences were my grandmother’s work, then the drawings of German artist Kathe Kollwitz when I was around 8 or 9. I was overwhelmed by the work of Mexican muralists (Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siquieros) which we saw on a trip to Mexico when I was 10. At that time, Frida Khalo was not known as one of the group — a major act of gender discrimination in art history. I only became aware of her work when she was “discovered” in the late 1960s. 

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The Land of Cedric Nunn

by Candice Jansen

 W.T.J. Mitchell’s, Landscape and Power (1994) helped change the understanding of the word “landscape” from a noun to a verb. The anthology “asks that we think of landscape, not as an object to be seen or a text to be read, but as a process by which social and subjective identities are formed.” [1] If landscape then is a practice or a process, not just an image, how can we imagine the landscapes of South African photographer, Cedric Nunn (1957-)? “I am not a landscape photographer per se,” [2] he deflects in the post-script to his first photographic monograph, Unsettled: The 100 Years War of Resistance by Xhosa against Boer and British (2015). His book of photographic landscapes evokes a forgotten resistance history and maps critical sites of memory that he writes, are “about imagining, my imagining.” [3]

Nunn photographs both a distant past and an “attitude towards land.” [4] He may not consider himself a ‘landscape photographer’, but his activism has always been touched by land as a history, an identity, and a feeling that colours the lives of rural Black people. He came to photography during the early 1980s as the cultural movement against apartheid gained momentum after the 1982 Culture and Resistance Festival in Gaborone, hosted by the Medu Arts Ensemble. There documentary photography emerged as a collective practice of resistance, called for by late photographer, Peter McKenzie (1955-2017) in his address, “Bringing the Struggle into Focus.” [5] Taking sides became the ethos of Afrapix, the iconic anti-apartheid photography collective, who through the decade served as a critical intermediary between the mainstream and alternative press, between the visual needs of political and grassroots organisations around South Africa and in exile.

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