Willie Bester: Family Unit (1993)
In this work Bester commemorates the lives of women trapped in the rural periphery of industrialised southern Africa. As was the theme in Migrant Labourer, the husbands have to live far away from their families in hostels in order to support them as a result of Apartheid. Therefore the women are left in the townships to raise the family and they form the cornerstones of the family. Without the incredible strength of the woman, the tension and hardships of this lifestyle would break the family unit.
The central panel shows a woman cutting a pineapple. This shows the mother's nurturing nature, and the detailed hand reaching out to receive some pineapple supports this. It also shows how important Bester considers the mother's feeding and caring of her children. Bester also includes a gun (an AK-47) and bandolier indicating the role he feels mothers play as peacemakers in a society at war with itself. Also, often in township violence the first people killed are the women, as they always put themselves on the front lines as the protectors of the family. The success of the woman as a mother is shown in the lively faces of the two children on either side of her. The numbered cups that appeared in Migrant Labourer are again used, this time to symbolise the uncomplaining acceptance of suffering as a result of Apartheid.
The image of the woman is framed by four roughly cut pieces of wood showing her rural environment. Some parts of the wood are painted in the style of rural wall painting. The rural setting is also shown by the calabash below the central frame, the xylophone made of animal bones and the child's catapult at the bottom left of the painting.
Men are purposely left absent from this work because they are confined to the industrial world except for three weeks of the year, for the Christmas holidays.