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Anti-Apartheid Poster Exhibit at Columbus Public Library

An exhibit of posters from the 1980s that helped draw the world’s attention to the horrors of Apartheid in South Africa will be on display at the Columbus Public Library this September and October.

Entitled Apartheid’s War Against Africa, the exhibit highlights three poster collections created by the International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa (IDAF), the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM), the Holland Committee on Southern Africa and the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid.

The exhibit is on display in the Second Floor Rotunda of the Library from September 13 – October 27, 2019.

The posters are on loan from Professor Judy Rutledge Purnell who purchased them at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa in 1998.

The three poster collections represent the efforts of IDAF and AAM to publicize the horrors of Apartheid, the legal and social system that dictated racial segregation and white racial supremacy in South Africa in the 1940s-1980s. These stories, often horrific in nature, were regularly excluded from the broadcasts and news publications of the time. The posters were distributed worldwide and helped bring mass attention to the Anti-Apartheid cause.

The first collection, “Women Under Apartheid” (1981), tells the pivotal story of the women’s organizations that helped shape protests within the country. As many of the Anti-Apartheid movement’s male leaders were killed or imprisoned, it fell upon the women to continue the internal pressure necessary to challenge Apartheid’s supporters while still fulfilling traditional matriarchal roles.

“Apartheid’s War Against Africa” (1983) presents in graphic detail the grim realities of violence perpetuated against the majority African population by the minority white Afrikaans government. These images, some disturbing, were a tool used by IDAF and AAM to consolidate world opinion against the both the South African government and the world’s corporations that regularly conducted business in the country.

Nelson Mandela

The final exhibit, “Nelson Mandela: His Life in the Struggle” (1985) gives a pictorial history of South Africa’s most famous citizen, the former political prisoner who went on to become the internationally beloved President of the unified South African government in 1994. Created while he was still in prison, it helps portray both his impact and his importance as a political prisoner to the international Anti-Apartheid movement.

The International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa was created by John Collins, the canon of London’s St. Paul Cathedral, to help pay the legal costs of the 156 Anti-Apartheid protesters (including Nelson Mandela) during their 1956 trial for treason. Because Johannesburg’s Anglican bishop feared that additional trials would require  support for even more families, the IDAF formalized it’s structure and outreach, soon spreading to other countries throughout Europe and the British Commonwealth. They were formally banned from South Africa in 1966 under the Suppression of Communism Act.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM), originally known as the Boycott Movement, was another British organization created in response to support the majority Black population of South Africa. Originally founded by South African exiles and their supporters in 1959, AAM existed to bring public pressure on countries, corporations and/or individuals who supported or did business with the Afrikaans government of South Africa. Working in cooperation with the United Nations, AAM helped spearhead some of the most notable international protests and boycotts of South Africa, including the expulsion of South Africa from the Olympics.

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