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Willie Bester is a South African painter, sculptor and collage artist. He is best known for his role in the protesting of the apartheid system through his artwork. He currently lives in Kuilsrivier, South Africa with his wife, Evelyn and their three children.


Bester was born in Montagu, Western Cape, a town located in the Western Cape province of South Africa about 180 km east from Cape Town. His father was Xhosa and his mother was classified Coloured under the apartheid system.

During childhood, Willie Bester showed a natural talent for art. He was known to create and sell toy cars from wire, creating headlights from candles and discarded tin cans. He won an interschool art competition after encouragement from a school teacher who recognized his interest in painting.[However, with his parents categorized as a mixed-race relationship, Bester faced many challenges growing up. They were denied housing in “Coloured” neighborhoods of Montagu, while the only lodging for Black workers were single-sex hostels. In order to live together as a family within the township, they often lived in other people's backyards.

In his late teens, Bester, like many townships and rural youth in similar situations joined the South African Defence Force. He spent a year there, and another in a military camp for unemployed black youth. He later became a dental assistant. During the 1980s, resistance movements like the Soweto Uprising inspired Bester, who returned to his childhood interest in art by joining the Community Arts Program in Cape Town at the age of thirty.

Bester works in a variety of mediums, such as paint, photography and sculpture. He is most notable for his mixed-media pieces using collage and paint. His use of found objects in collage to represent the real world have been compared to Pablo Picasso and Synthetic Cubism, rubbish collages by Kurt Schwitters and early Pop Art works by Robert Rauchenberg.

Much of his subject matter is reflective to the history of apartheid, both in townships and his own personal accounts. He is also known for using the human form as a narrative tool, compared to artists like Jackson Hlungwani and Andries Botha. Bester has been noted as one of the strongest opponents to apartheid, creating much resistance art to garner protest from other South Africans.


source: Wikipedia

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