The Soweto uprising marked the beginning of social change in South Africa. Resistance art grew out of the Black Consciousness Movement, a grass-roots anti-Apartheid movement that emerged in the 1960s lead by the charismatic activist Steve Biko. Much of the art was public, taking the form of murals, banners, posters, t-shirts and graffiti with political messages that were confrontational and focused on the realities of life in a segregated South Africa.

One of the leading artists of resistance art was Thamsanga Mnyele who was killed by South African commandos in 1985. Other artists associated with resistance art include: Dikobe Martins and Norman Catherine.