Bibliophilia Book Reviews: June 2018

Jean Doyle, A Portrait

By Grace Powell

This book is a glorious tribute to one of South Africa’s quietest artists.  Part-biography, part critique the book explores how Jean has formed, shaped, forged and polished her career over 45 years. Frequently told through her private sculpture notes, going beneath the layers of bronze and clay to the inspirational heart of her work, tracing her artistic journey. Doyle’s mammoth Angolan national monument, The Battle of Kifangondo, is one of the largest bronze sculptures in Africa at nine meters high and weighing eight tons. Just Nuisance in Simonstown and Long Walk to Freedom (Statue of Nelson Mandela) outside Groot Drakenstein Correctional Centre, Paarl are well-known works that celebrates the intelligence, unmistakable sense of humour and, strikingly, the modest humility with which Jean Doyle has emerged as one of the greatest story-telling South African artists of our time. (R455)

Isishweshwe: A History of the Indigenisation of Blueprint in South Africa

By Juliette Leeb-du Toit

The cross-cultural usage of a particular cloth type – blueprint – is central to South African cultural history. Known locally as seshoeshoe or isishweshwe, among many other localised names, South African blueprint originated in the Far East and East Asia. The cloth came to reflect histories of hardship, courage and survival, but it also conveyed the taste and aesthetic predilections of its users, preferences often shared across racial and cultural divides. In its indigenization, isishweshwe has subverted its former history and alien origins and has come to reflect the authority of its users and their culture, conveying resilience, innovation and adaptation and above all a distinctive South Africanness. In Isishweshwe: A History of the Indigenisation of Blueprint in South Africa Juliette Leeb-du Toit traces the origins of the cloth, its early usage and cultural adaptations, and its emerging regional, cultural and aesthetic significance. (R895)


By Omar Badsha

Seedtimes is the sixth book by the celebrated artist and award winning South African social documentary photographer Omar Badsha. The photographs are a compilation from a number of documentary projects he started working on in 1977 and ends with a photograph of Nelson Mandela at the funeral of his close friend and comrade Walter Sisulu, taken in 2003. The photographs trace his way of narrating stories about how people shaped their identities through their everyday rituals. Above all, it is a story of how people moved from the margins of a deeply divided racist and repressive society and defiantly took center stage in the struggle to bring down Apartheid. This is documentary, not in any narrow sense as mere record, but in its fullest, original sense as creative. (R600)