Oxford Arts Blog

Special website for anti-apartheid archive

Stuart Gillespie | 2 Apr 2014

It was one of the biggest protest movements ever seen in the UK.

For three decades, the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) campaigned for a boycott of apartheid South Africa and supported all those struggling against it.

Founded in 1959 as the Boycott Movement, the AAM grew into the biggest ever British pressure group on an international issue.

Now, 20 years after Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa's first black president, a collection of rare documents held by Oxford University's Bodleian Library has been uploaded to a new website chronicling the history of the AAM.

Lucy McCann, archivist at the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House, said: 'The Anti-Apartheid Movement Archive at the Bodleian Library records the activities of one of the most important campaigning organisations in post-war Britain and this website makes available to all a wide selection of documents, posters, photographs, newly recorded interviews, videos and other items.

'It is of interest to those studying South Africa and British-South African relations over the period and the activities and effectiveness of campaigning organisations.'

The new website features three decades' worth of videos, photos, posters and documents relating to the AAM. Highlights include footage of the Nelson Mandela tribute concert at Wembley in 1988, iconic posters from campaigns to save the Rivonia trialists from the gallows in 1964 and to stop the Springbok cricket tour in 1970, and letters from Margaret Thatcher arguing against sanctions on South Africa.

There are also interviews with musician Jerry Dammers of The Specials, actor Louis Mahoney, David Steel (AAM President in the 1960s), and grassroots activists who talk about what motivated them to get involved and help bring down South Africa's system of white minority rule and racial segregation.

Ms McCann added: 'I think the archive is very important because for people at school now, all this happened before they were born.

'But it was a very big movement in Britain and some of the events they organised, such as the Nelson Mandela concert, were global events and were broadcast around the world.'

The website is part of a wider education project that includes a pop-up exhibition with 22 display boards on anti-apartheid campaigns and support groups.

The project is funded by the Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Leading figures from the worlds of art, museums, film and historiography will visit Oxford next month in the latest series of Humanitas events.

World-renowned artist Vik Muniz will deliver a series of stimulating talks in his role as Humanitas Visiting Professor in Contemporary Art. Mr Muniz is a photographer who incorporates unusual materials into the photographic process. For his recent project Pictures of Garbage he created a series of monumental photographic portraits made from industrial rubbish in collaboration with the litter pickers of Jardim Gramacho, one of the largest landfill sites in Latin America.

Mr Muniz will be joined for a symposium titled 'Between the Artist and the Museum' by Michael Govan, Humanitas Visiting Professor in Museums, Galleries and Libraries. Mr Govan is CEO and Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and is responsible for turning it into Southern California's dominant cultural organisation.

Also visiting Oxford next term are filmmaker Kelly Reichardt and historiographer Professor Lynn Hunt.

Ms Reichardt, Humanitas Visiting Professor in Film and Television, will be giving a masterclass and taking part in an 'in conversation' event, while Humanitas will also be hosting special screenings of her films Meek's Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy.

Professor Hunt will deliver a series of lectures on 'Dilemmas of History in a Global Age', which will conclude with a roundtable discussion with Professor Lyndal Roper and Professor Elleke Boehmer.

Full details of each professorship and associated events can be found here. All events take place during May and are free and open to all, although registration on the website is recommended.

Humanitas is a series of Visiting Professorships at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge intended to bring leading practitioners and scholars to both universities to address major themes in the arts, social sciences and humanities.

Created by Lord Weidenfeld, the programme is managed and funded by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue with the support of a series of generous benefactors and administered by the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

China's Second World War: the forgotten story

Stuart Gillespie | 19 Mar 2014

Parliamentarians have been given a fascinating insight into one of the Second World War's forgotten stories by an eminent Oxford academic.

Professor Rana Mitter, Director of the University of Oxford China Centre and a Fellow of St Cross College, addressed the All Party Parliamentary Universities Group on China's role in World War II, and how the eight years its people spent resisting the Japanese helped shape the country's future.

Professor Mitter's lecture was one of just four chosen to be delivered from 185 submissions as part of the Frontiers of Knowledge series. It was also the only humanities talk chosen.

The lecture was held, by kind permission of the Lord Speaker, in the River Room in the House of Lords, and was introduced by Lord Norton of Louth.

Professor Mitter's research drew on material from Chinese archives that remained sealed until five or 10 years ago.

The lecture was based on his recent book, China's War with Japan, 1937–45: The Struggle for Survival, which was chosen as a 2013 Book of the Year by the Economist, Financial Times, New Statesman, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Telegraph, and Observer.

Professor Mitter told parliamentarians: 'The story of China in World War II is one of the last great unknown stories of one of the most famous world conflicts.

'It's really very strange that we haven't known in the West what happened to China in World War II for so many decades, because the effect on China was devastating.

'Fourteen million or more Chinese were killed, 80 to 100 million became refugees, and the tentative modernisation that was happening in China before the war was smashed into pieces.

'All of this came together to shape the China that we know today – the rising superpower – and yet the experience of the Chinese people resisting Japan and coming through those eight years of war is simply very little known.'

Professor Mitter went on to outline why a war that devastated China has been largely forgotten, and why World War II was so important in China's global rise.

The lecture illuminated the roles of towering political figures such as Mao Zedong and China's nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-shek, and explained the ways in which their legacy is shaping the fraught relations between China and Japan today.

The Ashmolean Museum's new exhibition, Cézanne and the Modern, opens on Thursday and will feature 50 masterpieces of late-19th to mid-20th-century European art from the Henry and Rose Pearlman Collection.

Highlights include Paul Cézanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire, Vincent van Gogh's Tarascon Stagecoach and Amedeo Modigliani's portrait of Jean Cocteau, as well as an outstanding suite of 16 watercolours by Cézanne.

Arts at Oxford was given a behind-the-scenes look at the installation of the new exhibition…

Vincent van Gogh – Tarascon Stagecoach (1888)Vincent van Gogh – Tarascon Stagecoach (1888)
Vincent van Gogh – Tarascon Stagecoach (1888)

This painting of the Tarascon stagecoach was produced in the courtyard of the inn at Arles – probably in a single sitting on 12 October 1888. Vincent van Gogh (1853–90), the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, spent time living and working in Paris and Arles. He is famous for his vivid use of colour and works filled with emotion. Although his artistic career only lasted for 10 years, he was highly prolific and 864 paintings of his have survived, along with many drawings and prints.

Foreground: Édouard Manet – Young Woman in a Round Hat (1877-79); Background: Paul Cézanne – Cistern in the Park of Chateau Noir (c.1900)Foreground: Édouard Manet – Young Woman in a Round Hat (1877-79); Background: Paul Cézanne – Cistern in the Park of Chateau Noir (c.1900)
(Background: Paul Cézanne – Cistern in the Park of Chateau Noir [c.1900])

Foreground: Édouard Manet – Young Woman in a Round Hat (1877-79)

Édouard Manet (1832–83) lived and worked in Paris, and many of his most famous works depict Parisian society of the 19th century. At the time his paintings were considered controversial, but they are now considered by many as the starting point for modern art.

Manet often used members of his family and close friends as models in his paintings, blurring the conventional distinction between the portrait and the genre picture. Although clearly painted from life, this striking painting is not a conventional portrait, as the woman's face is hidden by a veil and by the shadow of her hat. She is seen in profile, in outdoor dress, ready to leave the apartment or studio where she is depicted.

Wilhelm Lehmbruck – Buste von Frau Anita Lehmbruck (1910)Wilhelm Lehmbruck – Buste von Frau Anita Lehmbruck (1910)
Wilhelm Lehmbruck – Buste von Frau Anita Lehmbruck (1910)Wilhelm Lehmbruck – Buste von Frau Anita Lehmbruck (1910)
Wilhelm Lehmbruck – Buste von Frau Anita Lehmbruck (1910)

Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1881–1919) was a German sculptor who studied in Düsseldorf and also in Paris. He worked as a paramedic in a military hospital during World War I, and this had a profound effect on his later sculptures. Lehmbruck created this portrait of his wife during their four-year stay in Paris (1910–14).

Cézanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European art from the Pearlman Collection runs from 13 March to 22 June 2014.

Images © The Ashmolean Museum and The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation.

Margi Blunden, daughter of the First World War poet Edmund Blunden, will be remembering her father and his work at the WW1 Poetry Spring School run by Oxford University's English Faculty on 3-5 April 2014.

Margi will recall life growing up with a father deeply affected by the Great War and shed light on his literary achievements. As our living link to this bygone age, Margi will provide a thrilling insight into the man who wrote the autobiographical Undertones of War (1928), hailed as Blunden's greatest contribution to the literature of war.

The Spring School is open to members of the public, particularly those who are seeking to challenge common misconceptions and gain a deeper critical appreciation of Great War poetry. It will bring together world-leading experts, each giving an introductory lecture on the major poets and poems. Speakers will provide reading lists and follow-up exercises for further study.

Other speakers confirmed include: Adrian Barlow, Meg Crane, Guy Cuthbertson, Gerald Dawe, Simon Featherstone, Philip Lancaster, Stuart Lee, Jean Liddiard, Alisa Miller, Charles Mundye, Jane Potter, Mark Rawlinson and Jon Stallworthy.

Aged 19, Edmund Blunden volunteered to join the army, despite winning a place at The Queen's College, Oxford to read Classics. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and went to France in early 1916 and was eventually demobilised in mid-February 1919. During his service in France and Flanders he spent two years at the front, more than any other well-known war writer. Those two years included some of the most violent and bloody fighting in the war, including the battle of the Somme and the battle of Third Ypres.

His most famous works also include In Concert Party: Busseboom (written 10 years after the war) and The Waggoner (1920). He enjoyed a productive career as an editor, journalist, critic and biographer. Blunden was also instrumental in bringing the works of the war poets Wilfred Owen and Ivor Gurney to publication. Edmund Blunden died at his home on 20 January 1974 aged 77.

The Spring School will be held at the Faculty of English, St Cross Building, University of Oxford on 3-5 April 2014. There are a number of different ticket options, including student, senior, school and single-day rates. See the website for full details.

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