Sources of Inspiration: Shelley, Heine, Kollwitz, Jonker, Rembrandt

1. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

The Mask of Anarchy (Written on the occasion of the massacre carried out by the British Government 
at Peterloo, Manchester 1819)

As I lay asleep in Italy

There came a voice from over the Sea,

And with great power it forth led me

To walk in the visions of Poesy.

I met Murder on the way –

He had a mask like Castlereagh –

Very smooth he looked, yet grim;

Seven blood-hounds followed him:

All were fat; and well they might

Be in admirable plight,

For one by one, and two by two,

He tossed the human hearts to chew

Which from his wide cloak he drew.
Next came Fraud, and he had on,

Like Eldon, an ermined gown;

His big tears, for he wept well,

Turned to mill-stones as they fell.

And the little children, who

Round his feet played to and fro,

Thinking every tear a gem,

Had their brains knocked out by them.

Clothed with the Bible, as with light,

And the shadows of the night,

Like Sidmouth, next, Hypocrisy

On a crocodile rode by.

(For the rest of the poem, see:


2. Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

Das Lied von den schlesischen Webern (Written on the occasion of the Silesian weavers uprising of 1844)

Im düstern Auge keine Träne,

Sie sitzen am Webstuhl und fletschen die Zähne:

Deutschland, wir weben dein Leichentuch,

Wir weben hinein den dreifachen Fluch –

Wir weben, wir weben!

Ein Fluch dem Gotte, zu dem wir gebeten

In Winterskälte und Hungersnöten;

Wir haben vergebens gehofft und geharrt,

Er hat uns geäfft und gefoppt und genarrt –

Wir weben, wir weben!

Ein Fluch dem König, dem König der Reichen,

Den unser Elend nicht konnte erweichen,

Der den letzten Groschen von uns erpresst,

Und uns wie Hunde erschiessen lässt –

Wir weben, wir weben!
Ein Fluch dem falschen Vaterlande,

Wo nur gedeihen Schmach und Schande,

wo jede Blume früh geknickt,

Wo Fäulnis und Moder den Wurm erquickt –

Wir weben, wir weben!

Das Schifflein fliegt, der Webstuhl kracht,

Wir weben emsig Tag und Nacht –

Altdeutschland, wir weben dein Leichentuch,

Wir weben hinein den dreifachen Fluch –

Wir weben, wir weben!


3. Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945)

Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), one of the greatest German artists of the 20th century, produced a cycle of six works on the same Silesian Weavers’ Revolt (1895–8): three lithographs (PovertyDeath, and Conspiracy) and three etchings (March of the WeaversRiot, and The End).

Kollwitz was a committed socialist and pacifist, even before she lost her own son Peter in the early days of WW1 (and her grandson during WW2). Much of her work expresses concern for the victims of poverty and war. The National-Socialist regime removed her work from museums and banned her from exhibiting.

Kollw Poverty+Conspiracy



4. Ingrid Jonker (1933-1965)

The child (who was shot dead by soldiers at Nyanga) – original title:  Die kind (wat doodgeskiet is deur soldate by Nyanga). Nelson Mandela read this poem at the opening of the first democratically elected parliament on 24 May 1994 – almost 30 years after the day Ingrid Jonker walked out into the sea and into death in a Cape Town bay at the age of 31.


The child is not dead

The child lifts his fists against his mother

Who shouts Afrika ! shouts the breath

Of freedom and the veld

In the locations of the cordoned heart


The child lifts his fists against his father

in the march of the generations

who shouts Afrika ! shout the breath

of righteousness and blood

in the streets of his embattled pride


The child is not dead not at Langa nor at Nyanga

not at Orlando nor at Sharpeville

nor at the police station at Philippi

where he lies with a bullet through his brain


The child is the dark shadow of the soldiers

on guard with rifles Saracens and batons

the child is present at all assemblies and law-givings

the child peers through the windows of houses and into the hearts of mothers

this child who just wanted to play in the sun at Nyanga is everywhere

the child grown to a man treks through all Africa


the child grown into a giant journeys through the whole world

Without a pass


5. Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)

Danish Elsje Christiaens was 18 years old when she came to Amsterdam. Two weeks later, she still has not found a job and no income. Her landlady demands that she pays her rent or else, she will take Elsje’s possessions. When the landlady grabs a broom, Elsje panics, grabs an axe and kills the landlady. She tries to flee by jumping into the Damrak but before long, she is dragged out of the water.She is sentenced to death and around May 1, 1664, she is strangled on the Dam Square. After her execution, her body is being displayed across the river IJ, as a warning to others. The axe she used to kill is also exhibited. Here, her remains have been drawn by Rembrandt.