Illiteracy Among Us

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Azaria Mbatha

South African, born 1941

Illiteracy Among Us, 1975

  • Not On View

Woodcut on paper

Dimensions: 26 1/8 × 13 1/16 in. (66.4 × 33.2 cm)

Gift of Jack B. Pierson in memory of Robert Martin Purcell, 1979.235

While access to biographical information on the South African artist Azaria Mbata is not available, the meaning of Illiteracy Among Us is readily understood. Through bold, abstract stylization of features, Mbata provided a dignified and moving family hierarchy. United in their efforts to read a book and become literate, the figures symbolize the heroic spirit of the peoples’ rebellion against apartheid, the official segregation practice in the Republic of South Africa, involving political, legal and economic discrimination against nonwhites. Enforced illiteracy has been a means used repeatedly by one group to suppress another group of people.

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