Youth month June 2020

Youth month June 2020

A selection of modern artworks from the contemporary art collection of the War Museum. Commissioned from local, national and international artists in 2013 for the centenary of the National Women’s Memorial.

QUOTE: “If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children”. Mahatma Gandhi


Annemarie Wessels, Van honger is die glimlaggies vergete, oil on canvas

Artist statement: This photo of a little girl suffering from malnutrition in a concentration camp stirred my emotions most deeply. One wonders whether she survived the camp. Because she really lived and isn’t a product of my imagination, I experienced such intense sorrowful emotions that I was moved to tears and found it is hard to paint this fragile little figure.

The red settee belongs to my great-grandmother, Ouma Viviers, néé Joubert, general Piet Joubert’s cousin. The settee survived the war, since the family was allowed to take a few pieces of furniture to the camp. It is covered with brown leather, but my aim with the colour red was to let it form a contrast with the background to emphasize what these inmates possessed before the war, viz. (to certain degree) opulence, life and blood. The projectiles were found on our farm by my father.

The British officers holding Lee-Metfords in the background are depicted as “dull-brained” soldiers for “Queen and Country” to whom human beings were merely a commodity and obstacle in the way of achieving their goal. This reminds one of Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life: Man at War” which focuses on how little value officers in the Victorian era attached to the lives of ordinary soldiers.


Anri Lategan, Onse Vader , charcoal on paper

Artist statement: It does not matter if you shout it out, sing it aloud, think of it at the beginning or end of your PRAYER…I tell a story of WAR! The heart wrenching outcome…But also the story of our lives: FAITH, HOPE and LOVE, thank you OUR FATHER.

The altogether, all-inclusive HANDS symbolise GOD’S HANDS, which holds, cherish and comfort humanity even in their darkest hour of despair (let especially the children come to me, they who had nothing to do with the WAR!).
The many graves, the suffering, the hunger, YET there is a ray of LIGH AND HOPE…it overshadows the black all-consuming fire clouds and the scorched earth in the background.

The word Concentration Camp is written with barbed wire, the thorn in your flesh, the skeletons, and your soul becomes silent…


Antoinette van der Merwe, My suster Engela, oil on canvas

Artist statement: Much has been written about the suffering of women and children during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. It touched my heart deeply once more but left me with this thought:

“So when what is mortal has been clothed with what is immortal and when what will die has been clothed with what cannot die, then the scripture will come true: Death is destroyed; victory is complete!”

“Where, Death, is your victory?

Where, Death, is your power to hurt?”

1 Cor. 15:54-55


Ben Botma, War Games, mild steel, rust and varnish

Artist statement: The theme of the artwork is child soldiers. It consists of four mild steel plates on which photographs of child soldiers are etched and allowed to rust. Two of them, one from the Anglo-Boer War and one from contemporary Africa, are taken from photographs that depict children carrying weapons. The two smaller horizontal plates, one from the Anglo-Boer War and one from contemporary Africa, are taken from photographs of children playing games. The title of the artwork, War Games, refers to the games being played and to the phenomena of war games, which in some instances is a deadly reality. While some children are “killing” each other playing computer games, others are involved in real death struggles.

The two archival photographs from the Anglo-Boer War create a sense of calmness and serenity while the contemporary photographs leave an agitated and unsettling impression. The contemporary images, in contrast to the older ones, are warped and pixelated by the digital media. In both instances the children are subject to the same reality – they are children who are exposed daily to horrific circumstances, even facing death.

I wonder about these children. Did the three boys survive the Anglo-Boer War? What about the African boys? Are they still alive? How old are they now? Are they still soldiers or were they saved from their unnatural circumstances? Can they ever live a normal life again?


Ben Botma, War Games, mild steel, rust and varnish


Ben Botma, War Games, mild steel, rust and varnish


Ben Botma, War Games, mild steel, rust and varnish


Bertie du Plessis, So their stories . . ., willow charcoal on Schoellershammer medium cartridge

Artist statement: When I received the invitation to create an artwork for the centenary of the War Museum in Bloemfontein, it was an exceptional honour for someone who has been on the fringes of the art community for the past decade. Descended from Afrikaans stock, I felt morally obliged.

It so happened that I was busy translating Pericles’ Funeral Oration from the ancient Greek into Afrikaans for a publication when I received the book Suffering of War from the War Museum. At the back of the publication was an excerpt of Emily Hobhouse’s oration for the inauguration of the Women’s Monument. I was immediately struck by the fact that she used Pericles’ Funeral Oration (as reported by Thucydides) for the structure of her own speech.

I requested the full text and was astounded.

Hobhouse, who had no formal education, was comfortable with an ancient Greek text, and quoted extensively from Oscar Wilde, John Bright (a 19th century British progressive politician) and arcane speeches by Abraham Lincoln. Her erudition was, however, only the backdrop to an unusually poignant emotional appeal to the highest ideals, not only of her historical audience of Boer statesmen and women, but to a broader and universal humanity that included all races and genders. Some of her remarks, as searing then as they are now, were aimed at a materialistic, power hungry and selfish political elite. In the conclusion of her speech she finally alludes to Pericles, but within an unforgettable South African context. Hobhouse said: “As the diamonds and the gold glitter in the bedrock of your soil, so their stories, written or handed down, will shine like jewels in the dark annals of that time.” Our real mineral wealth is neither gold nor diamonds, but the glittering memory of those buried in our soil.

I decided, in humility, to pay homage to Hobhouse by illustrating those lines and thereby, hopefully, attracting a contemporary audience to what is arguably the greatest speech ever delivered on South African soil.

For reference I chose the photograph, “Bloemfontein Concentration Camp: A victim of the measles epidemic.” (Suffering of War, p. 163). Captured in the photograph is a young girl laid out in an elaborate and expensive looking shroud, the folds in the cloth and the intricate bows evoking the glittering facets of a diamond.

The power of realism (as I previously argued in an article many years ago for an avant garde art magazine) lies in the respect shown to the world beyond the mind and psyche of the artist. In carefully crafting the illustration I was paying my own respects to this little girl, keeping my own wake for her more than a century after her death, and most probably long after her family’s descendants had forgotten that she ever existed.


Carla Krige, Kinder swaarkry in die Oorlog, oil and acrylic on canvas

Artist statement: I wanted to place special emphasis on children suffering in war. Children are our most valuable asset and represent the potential success or failure of our future posterity. They are the innocent and vulnerable of the world and their dependence upon our actions present us with the greatest responsibility. The background of the painting portrays the reality of the concentration camps. The presence of human life in the landscape is suggested by figures eminent and some disappearing into nothingness; this is to call attention to the forgotten and to bring to remembrance the reality of the past. The young boy in the foreground personifies our present and future generations. The flame in his hand is the catalyst for our hope and signifies our humanity. We cannot change our past but we have the power to act in favour of our future; keeping the flame of truth, compassion, freedom and peace alive.


Diane (Di) Miller, Multiply by 1800, white stoneware, red African soil, printed text and recycled wood

Artist statement: The concept underpinning this work is the deaths of approximately 27 000 women and children in the concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer War.

The imagery is of the Voortrekker “Kappie” and Toy rag dolls are self-explanatory. The images of the toy cloth/rag dolls with linked hands, also evokes the folder paper cut-outs associated with children. The medium of clay is important as it carries with it inherent meaning other than simply a medium for domestic ware or decorative architectural features.

Clay/earth is a signifier of life and death, the female; fertility; of place; of a people. The clay relates directly to the earth but has undergone a transformation during the firing process and it has been “re-born,” and has the binaries of strength but at the same time it is also fragile.

The ceramic images have not been glazed but before firing some of the images were tinted with the red soil found in many areas of South Africa, which speaks of being of and belonging to this Country. The other images have been left white denoting, among other things, innocence.

The clay is thus used as medium, pigment, meaning and texture. Implicit in the use of multiples is that of mass numbers, in this case 15 images (3 lots of 5 denoting the one in every 5 children who died in the concentration camps) multiplied by 1 800=27 000 the number of women and children who died in the concentration camps.

The nine tinted images allude to Naudanya or nine seeds which is a symbol of renewal and diversity from India, for the creation of strong crops.


Gerrit Hattingh, Before and after Hector, charcoal on paper

Artist statement: The charcoal drawing is based on Sam Nzima’s famous 1976 black and white news photograph published around the world. Police shot Hector Peterson during a protest of school children resisting the implementation of English and Afrikaans as dual medium languages in all schools. Carried by Mbuyisa Makhubu and with Hectors’ sister Antoinette Sithole alongside him, this image serves as a symbol of resistance against apartheid and as a more current and well-recognised picture symbol of suffering.

By re-enacting the scene, but dressing the role players in authentic Anglo-Boer War clothing, the artist attempts to compare suffering from a more recent and well understood event with historical and perhaps lesser known suffering. The viewer will hopefully recognise that suffering is universal and not linked to time, reason or race. Ironically, in both instances, English and Afrikaans acted as a catalyst to the creation of heritage. Charcoal as medium is as significant to this artwork as burnt earth was to the Anglo-Boer War.


Ilse Fourie, My kind se laaste roep, metal filings with acid catalyst and acrylic paint

Artist statement: The surface on the 1400mm x 1400mm stretched canvas, was covered in a paint which has metal filings in it and through a method of oxidation the image was rusted on the background. Acrylic paint was applied in certain areas which is then partially absorbed by the rust and partially left unaffected. Through continuous rusting and paint application the final image is achieved.


Jaco van Schalkwyk, She did not have a candle, oil on canvas

Artist statement: The condition of the human psyche is such that war brings out the worst and the best in man and the highest price is usually paid by those who least can afford it – the innocent. The same can be stated of the Anglo-Boer War that started the 20th century for South Africa on a bloody and disparaging note.

It is with this background in mind that the artist endeavoured to investigate the suffering of women and children in the concentration camps. The painting “She did not have a candle” is based on the many propaganda photographs that were taken to reassure husbands that the British were taking proper care of their families. Today we know that was not the case. The brutal truth is suggested by the artist symbolically cutting’ out one of the children in the family portrait. To recall the words of Elizabeth Neethling in “Should we forget” (1920): “What the mother will never forget is the fact that her child died in the dark…. She did not have a candle….”


Marie Stander, Die vlug van die duiwe, charcoal and dry pastel on cotton paper

Artist statement: In the Anglo-Boer War concentration camps thousands of children died… Children were stripped of their carefree childhood because of famine, illness and the death of their loved ones and their own untimely death. As an artist, I wanted to portray the defenceless children who suffered this fate of being put into the camps, unjustly. The boy and the girl represent the children. The representations of the doves are double folded. The doves symbolise firstly freedom and secondly the Holy Ghost, because the outcome was undeniable.


Marie Vermeulen-Breedt, Merry Christmas “from the Bloemfontein Concentration Camp”, oil on Belgian canvas, assembled on a blood red velvet background in a box framed with glass

Artist statement: The photograph of the unidentified little girl, posed amongst lace, velvet and a leopard skin (denoting royal lineage in the African sense) is as jarring as it is incongruous. It is juxtaposed with the untenable perception created by the media, in The Times of 1902, that the people applied to spend their “Christmas Holidays” in the camps; an example of disinformation at its vilest.

The expression in the girl’s eyes speaks of undiluted misery. This brought me to tears as I worked in a rush of emotion to try and portray her plight. We must of course forgive, but we must never forget what people can do to one another in the name of “civilization and development”. Empathy for the Boer nation has never come easily or generously. We are a stubborn people prone to our own opinions (the African survival technique I call it), but also amazingly resilient and adaptable. That is why the whole resurrection of 1994 could take place.

The wrongs done to the innocent are taking place as we speak… that is why we have to be sensitised to the human condition and humanity.

History tends to repeat itself… beware the innocents who suffer.


Marna Schoeman, Penkop en Niggie, digital print on canvas

Artist statement: I have attempted to contrast especially the suffering of children during the war with the light, innocent impact (represented by paper dolls or by toys). For me paper dolls are symbolic of childhood innocence, something which children lost very quickly during the war. They grew up fast. Boys went to fight and died alongside mature soldiers on the battlefield. Small girls in the concentration camps had to nurse dying siblings and try to survive along with their families in terrible conditions and with few or no resources.

The children are thin and pale and privation has faded and torn their clothes. They have been uprooted and all around them is death and destruction, like the lamb with its slit throat in the small girl’s arms. The boy’s uniform and rifle are a little big for him and his horse is thin and bedraggled, yet they proudly constitute part of the heraldic composition of flag and weapons at the bottom.

I drew the whole sketch in outline and then placed it in a graphic program and coloured it in, so my medium is also non-traditional. I viewed the beautiful oil paintings which you have received for this Art Exhibition but wanted to create an emotional response in a different manner and also wanted to draw the Anglo-Boer War into the computer era in a way in which we can connect freshly and anew.


Michéle Nigrini, Hou wag, dis wasdag, oil on board

Artist statement: This work was inspired by a photo of children taken in the Aliwal North concentration camp. They purportedly play while adults are doing the laundry. The scene is rather gloomy and the children sit in the harsh sun with no shady spot in sight. My intention is to create an unusual composition and the arbitrary placement of the child figures is meant to create a sense of discomfort for the viewer. With their odd little bodies and little grown-up faces, they portray a scene of hardship and disillusionment against a background that resembles a weathered photo …


Reshada Crouse, Expanding the Empire, oil on canvas

Artist statement: Looking through the book Suffering of War, sent to me from the museum, was a most disturbing experience. Some of the images contained were heartbreaking, especially that of Lizzie van Zyl. She has been starved beyond gender recognition, yet the little porcelain doll lying in her arm, given by Emily Hobhouse, alludes to her feminine instincts. What a cruel sight, the odd loose nappy draped around her bones, perfunctory really as not much nourishment could have been passing her dehydrated lips, leaving her teeth exposed. Yet there is such dignity and composure in her quiet resignation, such pathos. There is also in her eyes, which seem mature beyond her years despite her pitiful condition, a sense that where there is life there is hope. She died from neglect at the age of seven.

The image juxtaposed with the decorative Union Jack addresses notions of “Expansion of Empires”, such notions being very much a part of the fabric of life from time immemorial, as is the fact that the implementation thereof inevitably comes at the cost of many hapless Lizzies who go silently like lambs to the slaughter.

Flags are pretty things, colourful and designed to please the eye but they are symbols of our territorial animal instincts, engendering patriotism, celebrating differences as opposed to human communality, symbols held close to the hearts of dying soldiers. The national pride of Queen Victoria, mother of nine and nearing her eighties inspired her on her deathbed to appoint Lord Kitchener to take care of the Boers in the war that had broken out in this country as a result of the discovery of gold. His scorched earth policy is well known, as is his involvement with the concentration camps. What a shameful and economical manner in which to wage war. He would have been a perfect candidate for crimes against humanity in a war tribunal at the Hague in current times.

More than 22 000 children under the age of sixteen died in the concentration camps. Surely numbers count for something; we are sensitive to such issues in South Africa and have public holidays dedicated to the slaughter of less than 50 people; rightly so. I have always had a sense that this travesty has been glossed over somewhat because those who died were Afrikaners. It must be remembered that these children were not the architects of apartheid; just innocent young victims of the greed and barbarity of those with ambitions to expand the British Empire.


Retief van Wyk, Alle uniforms is dieselfde, glass

Artist statement: The artwork depicts a bullet, standing in a pool of blood. The bullet is filled with shards from the original Anglo-Boer War, as well as modern children’s toys, female articles and men’s implements.

The piece symbolises that a bullet kills, the soldier does not know, nor care who the bullet hits, and is also not aware of the effects the death of a woman or child has on their families. The fact that by simply pulling a trigger the life of child can be ended, the pain and love the mother feels for that child does not matter to the soldier, and one cannot believe that such actions is even possible. Bullets are made to kill, but this piece wants to show what is in effect killed in the end. The contrast is the bullet versus the children’s toys. The contents of the bullet are not only gunpowder, but also the lives it destroys.


Salome Briers, Voortbestaan, mixed medium

Artist statement:

My kinders bly die grond behou;
Onthou julle afkoms; wees getrou!
Laat vreemde sedes staan!
Al bars die swaarste onweerswolk
Oor ons, tog bly ons nog ‘n volk
En sal ons voortbestaan.

Part of a poem by A.G. Visser.


Sandra Hanekom, “When is war not a war I-III”, oil on canvas


Sandra Hanekom, “When is war not a war I-III”, oil on canvas


Sandra Hanekom, “When is war not a war I-III”, oil on canvas


Tertia du Toit, Die Nagmag, oil on canvas

Artist statement: A tribute to the never-ending suffering of mothers, loved-ones and brave children. The girls are portrayed in their proud vigilance against the backdrop of a dark reality where the power of the women gently and timelessly shines. She is a dreamer and a road sign. She lets the light burn in waiting for the return of a brother, a son, a father, a husband. As the Watchman of Rembrandt, they are protectors. The night came for these children, but they stood by the courage and idealism that only a child’s faith and conscience can have.


Zelda van der Linde, Stones for my father, charcoal, extra soft powder pastel and ink on Canson paper

Artist statement: “We are what we are, we saw what we saw, and remember as we remember”

Stones has been since the beginning of time, been the principal material to build and adorn important structures. Permanence and solidity are the paramount consideration. It has stability, hardness and endurance. Bearing a wealth of symbolic meaning with deep rooted psychological and historical associations and suggestions. The woman in my drawing represent the “stone” in the title. The children and unfit is represented by “for my” and the men by “fathers”.

I have created this image with charcoal, extra soft powder pastel and ink on Canson paper. I also used sepia pencil and fixative to capture the different layers on the paper. I have spent in total 45 hours on this drawing. Creating it layer by layer.

Posted: 2020-06-02 16:00:42