Growing up in South Africa, Dumas saw few examples of original artworks, instead relying on reproductions in books and magazines for access to art that she had heard or read about.
Images held a particular power in South Africa: when anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in 1964, all images of him were banned. Television was not introduced to the country until 1976, the year Dumas left for Amsterdam.
In the large-scale blueprint collage Love versus Death 1980 Dumas pinned press clippings (mostly from 1977) onto two bands of paper, which she called ‘clue’ strips, at either side of printed drawings. She has said, ‘it contained everything – love stories, mourning, political deaths, grief,’ themes that she has continued to explore throughout her career to date.
I could say – South Africa is my content
and Holland is my form,
but then, the images I deal with
are familiar to almost everyone, everywhere.
I deal with second-hand images
and first-hand experiences.
Marlene Dumas 1994