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Judith Mason

Artist 197

Judith Mason

The Man Who Sang and The Woman Who Kept Silent


Judith Mason (born 1938 - 2016) was a South African artist who worked in oil, pencil, printmaking and mixed media.

Her work is rich in symbolism and mythology, displaying a rare technical virtuosity. Mason was politically aware and was motivated by a strong social conscience.

Her work is informed by people, creatures, events and sometimes works of poetry, that touched or deeply disturbed her. She drew and painted in reaction to her world: political events, books that she had read, snippets of history or poetry which caught her eye, or the experience of particular people or animals.

Mason felt that formalised theology has destroyed the spiritually-nourishing mythological character of primitive religion.

Currently on display at the Javett UP Art center is ‘The Man Who Sang and The Woman Who Kept Silent' (colloquially known as 'The Blue Dress') which comprising of two paintings and a mixed media sculpture.

This piece was inspired by two stories Mason heard on the radio at the time of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings.

They told of the execution of two liberation movement cadres by the security police. One was Harold Sefola, who as Mason relates, "asked permission to sing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika" before he was electrocuted; the other was Phila NdwandWe, "who was tortured and kept naked for ten days" and then assassinated in a kneeling position.

As the TRC found, before NdwandWe was killed, she "fashioned a pair of panties for herself out of a scrap of blue plastic."

This moved Mason to make a dress of blue plastic bags, inscribed with text beginning: "Sister, a plastic bag may not be the whole armour of God, but you were wrestling with flesh and blood, and against powers, against the rulers of darkness …"

She has further gone on:

"I paint in order to make sense of my life, to manipulate various chaotic fragments of information and impulse into some sort of order, through which I can glimpse a hint of meaning.”


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