"Free South Africa"
Mark Vallen 1985
Offset poster 17" x 21" inches

Mark Vallen's 1985 poster played a historic role in the movement to liberate South Africa from white racist rule. The print was eventually included in The Path of Resistance, an exhibition of contemporary protest art held at New York City's Museum of Modern Art in 2000. Organized by Joshua Siegal and Susan Kismaric, the exhibit traced 40 years of socially critical and politically charged art.

Artist's statement: "I created this poster in 1985 to support the freedom struggle of the South African people, who were living under a brutally racist white minority regime. Used at anti-apartheid rallies, student occupations of universities, and protests in front of South African embassies all across the US - thousands of these posters were given away, sold, and wheat-pasted on city streets.

In 1985 the administration of Ronald Reagan was openly supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was in prison and regarded as a 'terrorist' by members of the U.S. Congress.

However, people all over the world were supporting Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) and the movement for a free and democratic South Africa. I was naturally overjoyed with the eventual liberation of Mandela, the total defeat of the criminal racist regime, and the victory of the South African freedom struggle."

In the photo at right, Vallen's poster was carried by anti-apartheid demonstrators marching in front of the South African Consulate in Beverly Hills, California. The protestors were calling for the closure of the consulate and victory for the South African freedom struggle; the consulate was eventually permanently shut down. The Free South Africa poster was used in simular mass rallies and protests against apartheid that took place all across the United States.

By special arrangement with Columbia Pictures, Vallen's street poster appeared in the film, The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith. The poster was used as set dressing to lend authenticity to the movie's depiction of San Francisco in the 1980s. For the full story on the poster's appearance in The Pursuit of Happyness, read Vallen's blog. is owned and operated by Mark Vallen All artworks and text by Mark Vallen