Contemporary South African printmaking boasts an uneasy relationship between classic printmaking and the attention-seeking gestures that have historically informed protest art, lending itself to performance culture. In this article, I use the term 'attention-seeking' in two different capacities. The art made within a protest rubric sought to rouse the attention of broader society and often put the artists responsible for these works and gestures in real danger. This art was not concerned with awakening society in order to make it appreciate aesthetic or conceptual considerations in the artworks, but rather it served to make people empathise with issues relating to the political injustices current at the time, and to incite society to activity in one way or another. The relationship between traditional and performance art is one historically in a state of flux, given shifts in technology, aesthetic approaches and artistic intention. Performance culture in the west developed historically from politically-centred traditional printmaking, causing the body to become a viable matrix, not only for social protest but also for identity-based protest and more conceptual gestures.