Sue Williamson: Between Memory and Forgetting

4 Feb-4 Jun 2023

The Box
Plymouth PL4 8AX


Sue Williamson (b.1941) is a British-born South African artist and activist. 'Between Memory and Forgetting' presents an extended overview of her work, dating from 1981 until today as well as a major new sculptural commission. This is Williamson’s first institutional show in the UK.

For over 40 years, Williamson’s work has celebrated the underrated realisations of women, who played key roles not only in the liberation struggle, but in the years that followed. The artist speaks of her work as a ‘generational circle’ as it aims to bring these women and their histories to a wider audience, while also connecting the societal changes they allowed with the lives of their granddaughters and the younger generations.

The series A Few South Africans and All Our Mothers shine a light on the empowering stories of these women. A Few South Africans is a series of mixed media portraits, the heroines of the liberation struggle, while All Our Mothers is a parallel series of photographs dating from 1981, both in black and white and colour.

Williamson also focuses on the historical past, considering the events that form a background to the present. Colouring In reproduces every page in a child's colouring in book bought by the artist at the Anglo-Boer War Museum in Bloemfontein, South Africa in the 1980s.

A new sculptural commission, titled Towards Another World is a seven metre-high suspended memorial made of embroidered fabric. It takes as a starting point two identical looking memorials dedicated to women and children that died during the Anglo-Boer War, or the South African War (1899-1902). The monuments are located in Plymouth, UK and in Bloemfontein, South Africa. The title of the work is from the sentence engraved in the Boer War memorial in Plymouth.

Towards Another World considers the significance of memorials in the life of the community; those who are honoured, and those who do not receive a mention. The proposed monument is presented as a fragile, ruptured entity, calling into question the way in which history has been memorialised in the past.

Between Memory and Forgetting is an exhibition that speaks about liberation struggles, those who are not memorialised due to power hierarchies and the role and recognition of women who have fought and are still fighting for a more equal society.