"I am sometimes tempted to go to the seaside and to paint beautiful things from nature. But I do not do it because my art has to be taken as a nasty tasting medicine for awakening consciences."
Willie Bester is cited globally as one of South Africa's most important resistance artists. He incorporates recycled material into his paintings, assemblages and sculpture, creating powerful artworks that speak against political, social and economic injustice. For Willie, the personal is political, and being apolitical in South Africa is “a dangerous luxury that we cannot afford”.
Willie lives in Kuilsrivier in the Western Cape, and spends his time away from his studio scouring scrap yards sourcing material for use in his artworks.
His artworks are hard hitting and demand the full attention of the viewer. These range from larger than life sized steel sculptures that weigh several tons to realistic oil and acrylic paintings framed in hand beaten and painted iron.
The shoes of missing children, the Swastika, symbols and representations of Apartheid South Africa and scenes of informal settlements that speak to poverty present themselves in Willie’s artworks to bear witness to the ills in our society.
Willie has participated in many solo and group exhibitions both locally and internationally and he is considered so important that he is part of the South African school curriculum.
He has won numerous awards including the Order of the Disa from the South African Government and was awarded with an honorary doctorate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in 2019.
His artworks grace numerous important private, corporate and public collections including the Iziko South African National Gallery, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Pretoria Art Museum, University of Cape Town, University of the Witwatersrand, UNISA, Department of National Education, Smithsonian Institute, Jean Pigozzi – Contemporary African Art Collection, David Bowie Collection and many others.
Dr Willie Bester’s artworks speak to our history, our present and beg the question of our future.