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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.