Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hilda Bernstein

Born in London and emigrating to South Africa, Hilda Bernstein was a woman, an anti-aparthied activist, and an artist. She started the Federation of South African Women, a multi-cultural organization interested in supporting women's rights and banning apartheid. For their political activism, she and her husband were run out of the country and walked on foot to Botswana. She later became an author and artist, with a "fierce commitment to humanity". She passed away on Sunday at the age of 91.

If you click on the title above, you will be redirected to a website which offers a few of her paintings and sketchings. Among these I found two to be especially striking. The first, "Cypress, Dembozo, Sahel" depicts the struggle of women and a child during a drought. It is stark and painful. The second, entitled "We Women" depicts images of women painted against a background of red, no doubt representing blood and life and struggle. Her work is not entirely about activism; she has a number of beautiful paintings of life in London and it's vibrant marketplaces. I think it is the contrast between these two worlds which I have found most thought provoking.

When one is interested in beadwork as a tool for one's own artistic expression, it is good to look at the art of other people in other fields. By doing so, we learn that our own ideas are capable of finding a means for personal expression through beadwork and that it does matter what we have to say.

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