Out of the Furnace: Dr Willie Bester and Wolf Werdigier

`Out of the Furnace’ is the culmination of months of collaboration between two celebrated contemporary artists and thinkers. 

The combustive creative journey of these two renowned artists and social justice activists represents a deeply immersive and reflective process which has resulted in a powerful body of new and older works that is both triumphant and challenging, topical and celebratory.


The exhibition represents a galvanizing process, a cleansing through fire across generations, and within the cultures both artists embody, while not forgetting the harm inflicted.

For architect and artist Wolf Werdigier there is an important need to confront historic injustices inflicted upon his Jewish ancestors, and equally, acclaimed artist Willie Bester pulls from the fire the need to never forget or allow the dehumanization and silencing of Black South Africans across the spectrum as experienced during apartheid.


‘We are excited to present this critical body of work produced by artists Willie Bester and Wolf Werdigier, the result of their trans-personal and creative exploration of the most critical rights and freedoms afforded us, and the eradication of their violation’, says Craig Mark, the gallery director. 


This important dialogue between the artists across cultures, faiths and personal ideologies to find confluence through shared expression was undertaken with a deep sense of striving and truth, with trust, toward their creative articulation.

To Destroy is Not To Silence

The Melrose Gallery is proud to present this compelling creative and intellectual intervention and journey beautifully curated as a journey linking seemingly disparate experiences of past silencing and trauma through the representation of their confluence and harmony within difference, by curator Beathur Mgoza Baker - a critical discourse entered into and represented by both artists across space, through time and the invocation of memory and healing.


Reflecting on the narrative thread and underlying themes at play in the exhibition, curator Beathur Mgoza Baker says: ‘Artists are important agents for conscientising and moving us from a place of complacency, inaction and distance, toward connection, and the desire to take action for impact.

The exhibition works with the urgency in the work to invoke memory and to release trauma while upholding truth and proclaiming rights, freedoms and our shared humanity. 

History has repeatedly shown us why it is important to act and speak out against injustice and toward the understanding that to silence is not to destroy, truth and justice should ultimately prevail. Artists are vital to this striving toward agency and justice, and this conversation is current, vital and beautifully conceived by artist Willie Bester and Wolf Werdigier through their joint and individual works. It is a melding of their truths and personal histories and journeys - out of the furnace and into the light’.

A Journey Through Art, Across Cultures & Time Toward Healing & Catharsis Artists Willie Bester and Wolf Werdigier have a deep friendship that is tangible in the assembled presentation of their works. Each was deeply drawn to the other because of their outlook, personal ideology and professional expression almost naturally.


For several months now been engaged in a deeply personal and reflective creative journey and shared process toward making art and finding a language and shared expression – an alchemy of mind, artistic craft and spirit toward producing their critical and exciting new body of work for this joint exhibition.


Both have navigated excruciating encounters in their history and lives, standing at the centre of the symbolic furnace for what they believe in. The resulting art works in the exhibition as a result come from a process of creation that is deeply personal, immersive and intimate.


Each artist contributes to the shared journey of making, interrogating and discarding loss by invoking memory toward healing. In reflecting on the creative process and the journey toward realizing their works for the exhibition the artists excitedly reflect on the learning, sharing and mutual support they experienced and were able to give. 


The art works in the exhibition represent a conversation realized through sculpture, installation and painting and reflect important personal and political themes for both artists with a tangible intimacy and urgency. The works poignantly explore loss, remembrance and the healing power of memory toward overcoming personal and historical trauma, and the triumph of freedom against all odds. Their collaborative process mirrors the kind of collective exploration of justice and truth we are called on to undertake as a society toward individual and collective healing.