All Shall Be Afforded Dignity

Norman Kaplan, 1996

Linocut on paper
Photograph by Ben Law-Viljoen

Constitutional Court Art Collection
Courtesy Constitutional Court Trust

About the exhibition

The exhibition ‘All Shall Be Afforded Dignity’ offers an opportunity to reflect on the enduring meaning of ‘dignity for all’ in South Africa and beyond. People across the world and particularly those in or from the global South, continue to be impacted by the denial of inherent rights, long recognised by signatories to the United Nations charter, adopted 75 years ago.

‘All Shall Be Afforded Dignity’ is a travelling exhibition, touring the UK during 2024*, which provides a space for reflection and remembrance, encouraging all to be part of the global community seeking a common goal – the fulfilment of the promise of the UN Declaration of Human Rights – rights and freedoms that belong to everyone and which form the backbone of international human rights law.

‘All Shall Be Afforded Dignity’ is curated around the work (of the same name, pictured) that artist Norman Kaplan made in 1996 in response to a call for art to celebrate the Constitution of the new democratic South Africa. His linocut, All shall Be Afforded Dignity, was awarded the first prize honour and is engraved into a window in South Africa’s Constitutional Court, on permanent display.

Through sharing the linocuts as well as political and satirical cartoons made by Kaplan, during a career that spans apartheid South Africa, exile in the UK, and the hopes of post-liberation South Africa, this exhibition weaves a narrative that explores the interconnected themes of dignity, democracy, and the enduring human spirit.

*This online showcase presents the full selection of Kaplan’s lino-prints displayed, alongside a small selection of the cartoons shown in the physical exhibition ‘All Shall Be Afforded Dignity” at St Martin-in-the-Field, London  (22nd April to 6th May 2024, closed to public 25th & 28th April). As the exhibition tours, venues and dates will be updated here.

For best viewing, click on the image and it will open in a new window, with full caption.

Apartheid and the fight against it

Apartheid in South Africa was a system of racial segregation and white supremacy, which was enshrined in law from 1948, after nearly three centuries of racist colonial rule by Dutch and British settlers. In 1948, the National Party won an all-white election on a ‘manifesto’ of ‘apartness (apartheid)’ as official policy. Over the next four decades, the Nationalists implemented this system through an increasingly oppressive and deeply discriminatory legal framework. But in 1994, apartheid was overthrown by the South African people, who worked with socialist, anti-racist and anti-colonial movements around the world for decades.

Mr Lindstrom, The Shopkeeper

South End, Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth)

Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1967

Under apartheid, all productive land was allocated to whites, while Africans were relegated to overcrowded and barren ‘homelands’. Black workers in designated white areas were subjected to stringent pass laws which severely limited their freedom of movement, and received wages below subsistence levels. Health and education facilities were segregated, with those for blacks being vastly inferior to those for whites. Repressive laws allowed for indefinite detention without trial, and the state systematically practised torture; the apartheid system was maintained through fear and coercion.

‘Hoe Lekker Pose Ons Nou’

(Look how nicely we’re posing)
District Six, Cape Town

Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1967

Mother and Child (Seated)

District Six, Cape Town

Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1967

The Blind Vendor

District Six, Cape Town

Linocut on pape

Norman Kaplan, 1967

Simon and Frances, Domestic Workers


Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1975

Compound Gates


Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1975


Hillbrow, Johannesburg

Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1975

At the Herbalist


Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1975

Despite brutal repression, South Africa’s African, Indian, and Coloured (mixed-heritage) communities, together with a small number of White South Africans, resisted apartheid through mass protests, strikes, boycotts, and armed struggle. They appealed to people worldwide, and with resilience and determination secured widespread popular support. In the UK, boycotts and protests targeted those doing business with the apartheid state, including banks, agricultural importers, and mining companies.

For information about key events and dates during the struggle against apartheid, click below:

Key dates

  • 1910 – The Act of Union – a colonial tool to ensure white domination becomes part of racist law
  • 1912 – The African National Congress is formalised for African resistance to colonialism.
  • 1913 – The Land Act – the expropriation of land by the White settlers that had belonged to the indigenous Black population
  • 1914 – The National Party is formed to oppose British colonial rule.
  • 1921 – South African Communist Party is founded
  • 1946 – The Indian Congress, inspired by Gandhi, embarks upon a Passive Resistance Campaign
  • 1948 – The policy of apartheid is officially implemented by National Party as government
  • 1952 -The Defiance Campaign involves activists from all the oppressed peoples
  • 1955 – The Freedom Charter was adopted by the ANC at Kliptown, Soweto.
  • 1956 – The Treason Trial begins. 156 male and female activists from Black, Indian, Coloured and White backgrounds are accused of High Treason
  • 1960 – 69 Black Pan-African Congress demonstrators are killed by police at Sharpeville whilst peacefully marching against the Pass laws. The ANC is banned.
  • 1961 – South Africa is declared a republic and leaves the Commonwealth. The ANC starts an underground armed wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), and launches a sabotage campaign, targeting buildings not people
  • 1964 – ANC leader Nelson Mandela and his fellow defendants in the Rivonia Trial were sentenced to life imprisonment
  • 1970s – More than 3 million Black people are forced out of their homes and into so-called ‘homelands’
  • 1976 – School age students lead peaceful protests against the racist education system where they are taught in Afrikaans. The police and army are called in and hundreds of children shot dead and injured.
  • 1984-89 – Uprisings by Black people are responded to by the state declaring an ongoing state of emergency
  • 1989 – FW de Klerk replaced PW Botha as president. Public amenities were desegregated.
  • 1990 – the ANC was unbanned; Mandela and his comrades were released after 27 years in prison
  • 1991 – Multi-party talks commenced. Remaining apartheid laws and international sanctions were lifted.
  • 1993 – An agreement was reached on an interim constitution
  • 1994 April – ANC won the first non-racial election and Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected president

For more information visit ‘Forward to Freedom’, at

About the artist – Norman Kaplan (b: 1947)

Norman Kaplan is a white South African of Russian Jewish heritage. His lived experience of race stratification under apartheid, his revolt against it, and his solidarity with those struggling against its destructive impacts, are articulated in his printmaking,  in public awareness-raising materials he made during his time with the International Defence and Aid Fund, and in his political artwork for the liberation movement. The exhibition includes some of the many cartoons Kaplan created anonymously for underground political publications during the struggle. Bringing together work from the printmaking and cartoon strands of Kaplan’s artistry, embodies on the one hand his belief in the power of collaboration and solidarity, and, on the other, his lifelong hope for freedom and equality for all.

The exhibition delves into the accessible methods of drawing and lino-printing employed by Kaplan, as tools of struggle, change, and resilience. From the never publicly displayed cartoons created in exile in the UK by Kaplan for The African Communist, Umsebenzi and the ANC’s Sechaba to his more publicly known works, including some from the Constitutional Court’s collection, his work stands as a testament to the enduring power of art as a force for social transformation. Kaplan’s oeuvres serve as a potent reflection of “Batho Pele” (Putting People First) and the principle of “Ubuntu”, accentuating the importance of shared, collective humanity that are fundamental to a democratic South Africa. His art provides a visual narrative of human rights struggles and invites the viewer to reflect on the shared human experience, fostering awareness and empathy.

“All Shall Be Afforded Dignity” transcends mere retrospective celebration; it illustrates the dynamic potential of art to propel societal progress. Kaplan’s work acts as a bridge connecting historical struggles to contemporary aspirations. It inspires collective action for positive change, not only in South Africa but in the pursuit of a better world for all where dignity universally prevails.


Acrylic on Artists’ board

Norman Kaplan, 2000

Art as protest – Kaplan and exile

Cartoons tell stories and entertain, capturing and accentuating the personality of individuals by exaggerating their physical characteristics, and serve as a tool to provoke critical thinking. Political cartoons express opinion and challenge the viewer to reflect and critique an imagined or actual world. Cartoons as activism bring a sharp awareness of real-life events to audiences and make accessible complex narratives behind historical or political events.

The cartoons, designs and drawings Norman Kaplan made in exile in the UK as a contribution to the liberation struggle form a key part of his work. They were published anonymously in journals and newspapers such as Sechaba, the monthly mouthpiece of the African National Congress, The African Communist, the South African Communist Party’s quarterly journal, and its newspaper Umsebenzi (all distributed clandestinely in apartheid South Africa, passed from hand to hand). Described as ‘dangerous and subversive’ by an apartheid-era judge, Kaplan’s cartoons, viewed alongside his lino-prints, invite us to explore and re-engage with the spirit and values of the liberation struggle.

‘The Washline’

Township defence tactics against the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Pen and ink on cartridge paper. 4x A4 pages.
Published in Umsebenzi Volume 2 No. 2 (1986)

‘One Fist’

Workers and students unite to dig trench traps. Pen and ink on cartridge paper. 4x A4 pages.
Published in Umsebenzi Volume 2 No. 3 (1986)

‘Workers negotiate for their rights’

Pen and ink. 2 panels of 57cm x78 cm each on cartridge paper.
Published in Umsebenzi Volume 3 No. 2 (1987)

Satire is key to political cartoons which have appeared in print since the infancy of journalism. During apartheid, cartoons were published in newspapers and journals in South Africa and abroad, serving to illustrate and amplify the political and social situation in South Africa to a wide audience.

A small selection of the cartoons displayed in the physical exhibition are shown in this online showcase.

‘The Kornhoof Bills’

Pen and ink on cartridge paper, A4.
Sechaba April 1984

‘Nat’s Disunity’

Pen and ink on cartridge paper, A4.
Umsebenzi Volume 3 No3. (1987)

Mandela – Message from Robben Island

Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1986


In 1986 images of Nelson Mandela were still banned and South Africa was in the grip of the latest ‘State of Emergency’ declared by the apartheid-era president, Botha, to counter the liberation forces actions across the country. Pass laws were relaxed due to international condemnation, but apartheid laws remained repressive.

Norman Kaplan created this linoprint portrait of Mandela whilst living in London, during a period of exile from apartheid South Africa. Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s first democratically elected President (Head of State) inaugurated in May 1994. He declared he would serve only one term and stepped aside five years later. He was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1993, following his unconditional release from an apartheid prison in 1990 after serving 27 years for opposing the apartheid regime. He died at home in December 2013.

“The road to 1994 was long, painful, but travelled in solidarity. In 2024, we can reflect on the lessons learned and review how we can continue together to build the South Africa and the world we all want to see. Kaplan’s work engages us with head and heart and shows the power of art to inspire action, build solidarity, and to call to account injustices wherever they are found.”

His Excellency Mamabolo, South African High Commissioner to the UK and Northern Ireland

2024 – marking 30 years of South Africa’s self-liberation from apartheid

The popular demands of South Africa’s 1955 Freedom Charter became, almost four decades later, the bedrock of the country’s new Constitution, a world-leading progressive framework for freedom, democracy and social protection.

The Grape-pickers

Western Cape
Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1997

‘Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika, God Bless Africa’

Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1994

‘All shall be afforded dignity’ is a key aspect both of the Constitution’s promise and of the commemorative programme taking place across the UK in 2024 to mark 30 years since South Africa liberated itself from apartheid. In South Africa, 27 April is designated ‘Freedom Day’ in remembrance of the country’s first democratic election in 1994. Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president on 10 May that year.

Through mass participation in protest, stay-aways, boycotts and other efforts to attain universal suffrage, an end to racist legislation was achieved, along with a government of the people, special institutions for accountability and a Constitutional court.

Norman Kaplan created this print, ‘Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika, God Bless Africa’, around the time of the elections in 1994. It radiates optimism and hope, joy at the defeat of apartheid, and faith in the ability of the people of South Africa to build a new world. It is part of the artist’s private collection, and we are delighted to show it here publicly for the first time. Its spirit fittingly illustrates our celebration throughout 2024 of the movement of ordinary people that rose up across the world in response to the injustices of apartheid’s legalised racism, joining South Africans who were leading the struggle for equality and dignity for all.

The Waiting Room

Kwazekhele Township, Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth)
Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1995

The Open-Air Barber

New Brighton Township, Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth)
Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1994

All Shall be Afforded Dignity

Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1996

Photographer: Ben Law-Viljoen
Photo Copyright: Constitutional Court Trust

South Africa’s Bill of Rights

Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 1996

Xhosa Woman Playing the Uhadi

Transkei, Eastern Cape
Linocut on paper

Norman Kaplan, 2003


The exhibition has been organised and co-curated by sister organisations, The Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives, Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) and the Liliesleaf Trust UK’s Anti-Apartheid Legacy: Centre of Memory & Learning. It has been made possible with generous support from the University of East Anglia.

The organisers would like to thank Ian Blackwell, Christine Felce, Bronwen Kaplan, Norman Kaplan, Jenny Morgan, The Constitutional Court Trust and the South African High Commission to Britain, Scotland and Northern Ireland for their collaboration.

Photography of artworks, unless specified below, by Steve Russell Studios

All Shall Be Afforded Dignity’ photograph by Ben Law-Viljoen. Constitutional Court Art Collection (CCAC). Copyright: Constitutional Court Trust

Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika’, all showcased cartoons and’ Self-portrait’ photographed by Norman Kaplan

Exhibition Feedback

We’d love to hear your feedback and comments on the exhibition, whether you have been able to visit the exhibition as it tours around the UK, and/or have engaged with it online here.

Completing this short survey will take just a few moments of your time and all feedback is really helpful in order for us to understand more your engagement with the themes of the exhibition and the artwork – thank you.

Click here for the feedback survey.