A traveling graphic panel exhibition showcasing the formidable career of South African anti-apartheid and human rights activist Helen Suzman (1917-2009) will be on display at SMU Meadows School of the Arts from January 20 to February 20, 2015 in the Bob Hope Lobby of the Owen Arts Center.
Helen Suzman: Fighter for Human Rights tells the story of Suzman’s rise as the leading Member of Parliament to oppose apartheid legislation during 36 years of public service. Meticulously selected photographs, personal letters, speeches, political cartoons and news articles convey the tremendous strength she demonstrated while facing constant animosity, anti-Semitism and intimidation from other South African Parliamentarians, colleagues and citizens.
Suzman served in the South African Parliament for 36 years (1953-89), including a 13-year period (1961-73) as the governing body’s only member of the Progressive Party and among the few Parliamentarians to condemn apartheid. The exhibition also examines Suzman’s enduring friendship with Nelson Mandela, which began in 1967 when the two met during his incarceration at the Robben Island Prison, located just west of Cape Town. Suzman became a vocal advocate for Mandela’s release from prison, stating that Mandela “...was the one man who would have the will and authority to persuade the African National Congress (ANC) and the government to suspend violence, and who could create the climate for negotiations.” Tenacious in her beliefs, Suzman was recognized as a human rights champion, earning her two Nobel Peace Prize nominations, multiple honorary doctorate degrees and worldwide accolades.