This piece was inspired by two stories Mason heard on the radio at the time of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings. They told of the execution of two liberation movement cadres by the security police. One was Harold Sefola, who as Mason relates, “asked permission to sing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” before he was electrocuted; the other was Phila Ndwandwe, “who was tortured and kept naked for ten days” and then assassinated in a kneeling position. As the TRC found, before Ndwandwe was killed, she “fashioned a pair of panties for herself out of a scrap of blue plastic.” This moved Mason to make a dress of blue plastic bags, inscribed with text beginning: “Sister, a plastic bag may not be the whole armour of God, but you were wrestling with flesh and blood, and against powers, against the rulers of darkness …”
Judith Mason was born in Pretoria in 1938. She studied at the University of the Witwatersrand in the 1950s, obtaining a BA in fine art in 1960. Her first solo show was held in 1964. In the 1970s and 80s Mason was highly visible in the South African art world at a time when the country was isolated both politically and culturally from the rest of the world. She was chosen to represent South Africa at the Venice Biennale and at international art fairs like Art Basel. In the early 1990s Mason returned from living and teaching in Florence. At this time, her work became part of the South African school and university curricula.Mason is still prolific well into in the twenty-first century and is represented in major public collections in South Africa, Europe, the United States, and Australia. Her public commissions include tapestries in collaboration with Marguerite Stephens. Apart from producing a large body of work over the decades, Mason has published her work in books. She lives and work in South Africa.