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Cover for The People Shall Govern!

The People Shall Govern!

Medu Art Ensemble and the Anti-Apartheid Poster, 1979-1985

Antawan I. Byrd (Editor), Felicia Mings (Editor), Khwezi Gule (Contributions by), Ashraf Jamal (Contributions by), Mongane Wally Serote (Contributions by), Warren Siebrits (Contributions by)


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A revelatory and informative presentation of the anti-apartheid posters created by Medu Art Ensemble

Formed in the late 1970s, Medu Art Ensemble forcefully articulated a call to end the apartheid system’s racial segregation and violent injustice through posters that combined revolutionary imagery with bold slogans. Advocating for decolonization and majority (nonwhite) rule in South Africa and neighboring countries, Medu members were persecuted by the South African Defense Force and operated in exile across the border in Botswana.

The People Shall Govern! features nearly all the surviving posters that Medu created between 1979 and 1985. These objects are exceedingly rare, as they were originally smuggled into South Africa and mounted in public places, where they were regularly confiscated or torn down on sight. Offering new insight into the conceptual framework of Medu’s working practice and featuring a beautiful silkscreened cover, this volume examines the continuing relevance and impact of its poster production.

Praise For The People Shall Govern!: Medu Art Ensemble and the Anti-Apartheid Poster, 1979-1985

“Medu fought for the liberation of South Africa through screen prints and lithographs . . . This book assembles nearly all the surviving specimens, and should offer young artists a model of collective authorship and political engagement.”—Jason Farago, New York Times (“Best Art Books of 2020”)

Art Institute of Chicago, 9780300254341, 160pp.

Publication Date: October 13, 2020

About the Author

Antawan I. Byrd is associate curator in the Department of Photography, and Felicia Mings is academic curator in the Department of Academic Engagement and Research, both at the Art Institute of Chicago.