by Eben Lochner
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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.