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WALKING TALL, WITHOUT FEAR (article first published : 2007-09-8)

Walking Tall, Without Fear, written by Dirkie Offringa, is a handsomely-presented 64-page book aimed at learners as a tool to teach them about South Africa’s art heritage. This art heritage could have been lost if it had not been for Ifa Lethu, the NGO company which repatriated the work from around the world.

Founded in 2005, the Ifa Lethu Foundation (Our Heritage) fosters a culture of understanding and healing through South Africa’s Heritage, creating a focal point for all South Africans to understand their common inheritance. The goal of the Foundation is to define the universe of South African heritage falling within its scope, identify and repatriate representative collections from across the globe and house the work in suitable repositories and institutions. The Foundation promotes the use of artistic creativity to transcend adversity and contribute to the nation-building agenda.

Ifa Lethu has repatriated over 200 heritage works so far, an impressive collection ranging from paintings and sculptures to documents. The works will be taken to schools across the country in the Goodyear Ifa Lethu Mobile Gallery and the children’s book Walking Tall, Without Fear is part of this process.

Walking Tall, Without Fear features 24 South African artists from the struggle era, identifying some of the many who persevered against overwhelming odds and their artwork is testament to these words.

The artists featured range from Ezrom Kgobokanyo Sebata Legae (1938-1999) to Moses Masoko (1979 to date). Each artist is represented by a portrait and examples of his work – all the artists featured are male- and a narrative gives a potted life history, the medium in which he works and his various achievements. A glossary at the end of the book explains terms and brief historical details of organisations. The narrative is chatty and informal which will make it easily accessible for its target audience. Added information is given in boxes, explaining the processes of the various art mediums such as printmaking, bronze, sculpture, murals and etching as well as art terms such as “composition”, “abstract”, “commercial art” and “mixed media”. Other information boxes assist with the meanings of words such as “activist”, the aims and objectives of the Mandela Children’s Fund or a brief description of Robben Island and all that it stood for.

The book is sensibly and cleanly laid out, providing much-needed information but allowing the artworks to be enjoyed without the encroachment of too much text.

Author Dirkie Offringa has a visual arts background and holds a BA (Fine Arts), BA Honours (History of Art), MA (History of Art) and a management diploma. She has written numerous art reviews and articles over the years and contributes to several art publications. A council member of a number of South African arts and heritage councils, she is currently chief curator of the Art Museum in Tshwane (Pretoria). She was involved at the inception of the Ifa Lethu Foundation when the first artworks collected during the struggle years by former Australian diplomats Dianne Johnston and Bruce Haigh were returned to the country and donated to the Art Museum.

Published by Jacklin in hard cover, Walking Tall, Without Fear retails at R99-95, ISBN: 1-4150-0808-6. It should be in every single school library! – Caroline Smart




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