These images were made to mark the centenary of the notorious Land Act of 1913, which, decades before the advent of Apartheid, deprived Black South Africans of the land of their birth. Working within a continuing resource scarce environment, in which funds for producing projects such as this, or of any kind generally, are thin on the ground, I elected to focus on two communities in rural KwaZulu-Natal, that are fairly close geographically, but quite diverse and apart in terms of their situation, with both reflecting aspects of the difficulties people who occupy the land are subjected to in contemporary South Africa, one hundred years post the 1913 Land Act and the century of assault on rural Black South Africans that accompanied it.
The two communities are those of Cornfields, close to Escourt, and Gongola, close to Weenen. Cornfield’s is the name of a farm that was bought by Black families in 1910, three years before the 1913 Land Act. It is located roughly between Estcourt, Weenen and Mooi River. It was known by the apartheid state as a 'Black Spot' by which they meant it was a black area within an area designated to be exclusively white owned and occupied property. The land owners resisted the efforts of the Apartheid State to relocate the community. I photographed extensively the travails of this community in the 1980s and 1990s, revisiting it again in 2012. I found an area that was struggling to develop with very little assistance from the present state. People felt that rural and small farmers were largely neglected, with very little if any support from the State. The community showed many signs of division and dysfunctionality.
Gongolo, also fairly close to Cornfields and closer still to Weenen, is an area in which Black people had been displaced by Apartheid in the 50s and 60s. The communities of Gongola lodged a successful lands claim, and were awarded the return of their land, with a proviso that it integrate with a greater eco-tourism venture in the region, which they initially agreed to. However, the community became wary of this plan when they realised that the primary role for them would be as lowly workers in the venture, and now want the opportunity to farm the land themselves. These two communities represent a perspective on the 1913 Land Act and its contemporary manifestations in regard to the contemporary States attempts at redress.