Items from the 35-piece collection, originally titled “Celebrate Freedom and Cultural Fusion: A New Generation in South Africa for the Millennium,” are displayed on the second floor of the University Center. Pieces include paintings, woodcuts, lithographs, linocuts and a carved cow hide, as well as the “Images of Human Rights Print Portfolio.”
Enid Holden originally organized the collection for an art exhibit sponsored by the South African Embassy in Washington to celebrate Freedom Day in 2000. The theme was the transition from Apartheid to democracy under Nelson Mandela’s leadership. According to Holden, this is the only collection of its kind on this theme.
For the collection, Holden sought pieces that “represented a new generation of emerging artists from all the ethnic backgrounds, which contribute to the melting pot that is the ‘New South Africa.’” The artists represented in the exhibit have gained great success, with several having worked acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and museums in London and Europe. Many of the artists also have work owned by Nelson Mandela, as well as ambassadors and government members and other collectors.
Holden was the curator for the exhibit, as she had been an art history professor in South Africa during apartheid. She had been the first professor to introduce the study of African art into the European-based curriculum at the University of Natal-Kwazulu. At the time of this show, the Holdens were living in Washington, where she owned a private art school.
Five years ago, the Holdens relocated to Gunnison and Enid enrolled in the Western music program, earning a bachelor’s degree in 2011. For Enid, donating the collection to Western was a way of giving back to her alma mater and the community.
“As a graduate of Western and a resident of Gunnison, I’m happy the collection found its home at the college,” Holden remarked. “Also, it is largely an educational exhibit fitting for an institution of higher education.”
Holden hopes that the collection will remind viewers of the human rights struggles for equality that are part of recent history, and some of which are still ongoing today.
“I hope that viewers, especially students, take away a sense of how recent some of the progression is in the world toward equal rights,” she noted. “It’s important that the current generation of students realize that equal rights are not yet deeply entrenched. There are still recent changes in the world and some people are still disadvantaged from past systems. It’s only been since the 1950s that there has been equal access to opportunities in the U.S. and it’s easy for us to forget that. This art exhibit serves as a reminder so that we do not become blasé about the recent struggles for equal rights and opportunities."