Willie Bester

Born 1956, Montagu, Cape Town, South Africa
Lives and works in Kuilsriver, Cape Town, South Africa

Willie Bester uses the leftovers of the society he depicts in order to retrace the political history of South Africa. Bester was ten years old when the Group Areas Act of the apartheid government forced his family to leave their farm and move to a homeland. Like an archaeologist, Bester reconstructs the fabric of this history to reveal the hidden faces of the South African township. His works are vivid collages, juxtapositions of odds and ends, of rubbish found in the townships: shoes, bones, tin cans, newspaper clippings, pages of books, scrap metal. The artist has stated: “People have built up a resistance to anything that addresses the psyche of mankind or people or themselves. I believe that we must protest against that which is wrong. There is no form of escape; remaining apolitical is a luxury that South Africans simply cannot afford.”

In his best known works like A Tribute to Steve Biko (1992) and Kakebeen (1993), the reminder of violence is resurrected by the patchwork of materials, acid colours, and photographs of the daily life that bring back the reality of the events described. He does not recycle trash to give it another dimension, but to integrate elements into his works that summon up the corrupt and violent world of a divided society.