Gathering Strands with Lionel Davis

  • Posted: Jun 22, 2017

Collaboration between Iziko Museums of South Africa and District Six Museum has resulted in curating and hosting a retrospective exhibition of works by artist, educator, anti-apartheid activist political prisoner and former District Six resident, Lionel Davis. The retrospective exhibition, Gathering Strands: Lionel Davis opens, at the Iziko South African National Gallery, on the artist’s 81st birthday.

“My journey through life  ̶  starting in District Six, my work as an art teacher, public speaker   ̶  has also been about bringing people together. My travels had the same objective and then again the Thupelo, Thapong and Patchipamwe workshops. It is about learning to work together and learning from each other. The strands are about binding us together  ̶  socially, culturally and artistically”.

Davis is best known for his complex linocut prints that narrate experiences of his youth in District Six and his incarceration on Robben Island. The first colour linocut prints he developed at Rorke’s Drift are included in the Gathering Strands exhibition. Apart from his individual works, Davis has collaboratively worked with the annual Thupelo Workshops, where he produced several of his major abstract paintings on exhibit. In addition, Gathering Strands features a number of posters produced at the iconic Community Arts Project (CAP), where Davis helped to establish the Media Project in the early 1980s.

“Museums are living spaces, providing visitors with the chance to see, explore and learn [from and about] our heritage.  This exhibition, and the partnership between Iziko and District Six Museum, provides the platform to engage and reflect on the stories and legacies of everyday heroes who have made significant impact in the communities they serve, and on the lives of future generations,” said Dr Bongani Ndhlovu, Acting CEO of Iziko.

Throughout his artistic life, Davis relied on art making as a means to record and reflect on many of South Africa’s political transformations. Unable to afford a camera, he took to drawing the last sorrowful days of District Six. A former resident, he helped to establish the District Six Museum, and was involved in several of its seminal creative projects, and later became a board member.

“The stories of how people make sense of their lives against all odds have always interested me. Lionel Davis’ triumphant journey and realisation that art making was a restorative processis a deserving narrative worthy of sharing,” concluded Bonita Bennett, Director of the District Six Museum.

The exhibition was co-curated by Ernestine White for Iziko, and Tina Smith and Ayesha Price for the District Six Museum.  Grounded in history and place, Gathering Strands: Lionel Davis, is on show at the Iziko South African National Gallery, until October 2017.


Issued by
Kim Lindeboom                                Email:
TEL: 021 481 3874              CELL: 083 356 6043
On behalf of the Chief Executive Officer, Iziko Museums of South Africa


About Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko)

Iziko operates 11 national museums, the Planetarium, the Social History Centre and three collection‑specific libraries in Cape Town.  The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections that reflect our diverse African heritage.  Iziko is a public entity and non-profit organisation that brings together these museums under a single governance and leadership structure. The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, (*excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium). Visit our webpage at, join our online community on Facebook ( or follow us on Twitter (@Iziko_Museums) for regular updates on events, news and new exhibitions. 

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