This essay was produced in collaboration with the Apartheid Archive Study project, initiated and produced by academics from the Wits School of Community Development, amongst others. The images talk to the issues generated in a post-apartheid South Africa and query the state of various aspects of SA society such as health, housing, welfare, labour, capital etc. The contemporary nature of the project is informed by the notion that most of what we see in SA today is a direct result our apartheid past, and is therefore a reflection of that past. Of course, an effort was made to comment on those aspects of society that I deemed especially connected to that past. South Africa obviously carries the baggage of its historical past, complicated by the ravages of western neoliberal economics, within which it is entwined, contribute, along with state and bureaucratic bungling and corruption, to a dire contemporary situation where the gap between the wealth and poverty is at its greatest, as well an unprecedented and growing unemployment metric. These shortcomings impact on every aspect of the quality of life for the majority of South Africans, and the rainbow promise they greeted the dawn of democracy with has rapidly faded.
These photographs explore aspects of the controversial land redistribution process. I intend to show two communities which have very different relations to this fraught procedure, and the history of land in relation to dispossession, acquisition, use, value and heritage.
The bulk of these images where produced for an exhibition in France on African cities. They were done in the year 2000, at the height of the transformation of Johannesburg, when the streets were both vibrant and dangerous. Still, I found the city as exciting as always and the process fascinating in which “White flight”, where almost the entire white population fled the city in the matter of a few years as black people, who had previously been excluded from living in the city poured into it, with all the attendant issues of such an unregulated influx and exodus. The city, still beset with its teething issues of a change of occupants, and much less of a change of ownership, is still trying to find its new voice and feet as it attempts to stabilize and thrive.
This essay was begun in the early eighties, in the heydays of apartheid and the ‘struggle’ against it. I found a deep need to explore my identity as a South African of mixed origins. I felt uncomfortable with the monica of ‘coloured’, or more exactly, ‘Cape Coloured’ bestowed upon me by the state and needed to come to a new understanding of my origins and place in my country in light of my political perspectives. I ‘used’ my large extended family as a palette to explore these issues and as a meditative process to mediate a new perspective, which is that though subjected to the moulding influences of a separate existence and the inherent racism that informed it, I felt a strong need to be part of an undivided South Africa, free of racism.
Cuito Cuanavale was the site of a conventional military battle in the late eighties. This battle, fought by the armies of Angola, the Angolan rebels, Cubans and South Africans, is widely believed to have been lost by the Angolan rebels and apartheid South African, the Angolans and Cubans being the victors.
This exhibition was commissioned by the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA) for their 2014 PACSA Film and Arts Festival. Here I was given free rein to interpret living conditions for KwaZulu-Natal based communities, with a focus on food sustainability. The exhibition premiered at their Arts Festival in 2014.
These images are part of an academic study (South Africa-Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development, SANPAD) into the phenomenon of learner parents which is endemic in South Africa and many other developing countries. Whilst not normally the kind of subject I would have sort out, it was fascinating to encounter these young parents and have a glimpse into their world.
Then and Now features the work of eight South African photographers whose work straddle South Africa’s transition to democracy. Almost all of them were members of Afrapix, the collective photo agency that played a central role in documenting the struggle against apartheid in the 1980s and the early 1990s. This essay is my contribution to the project.
The 100 Year War of Resistance by Xhosa Against Boer and British. The South African landscape is drenched in blood. From the time of its inception when the coast was navigated by European nations – Portuguese, Dutch, French and English – repeated violence has been visited upon its inhabitants. At first, the Cape was seen simply as a refreshment station by the various marine enterprises. Later it was understood that the port played a vital role in controlling the trade route on which it lay.
These images formed a part of my first solo exhibition held at the KwaMuhle Museum in Durban in 1996. The exhibition was my take on the years in then Natal that were largely neglected by the mainstream media, and yet which I felt were of crucial importance in the make up of our national and provincial psychology. Exhibitions are and remain an important platform for photographers and artists to project an extended essay of images which when placed in that body and context are able to make a particular statement otherwise not possible through the normal commercial outlets. I’m grateful to KwaMuhle for that first opportunity to show as well as all other gallery spaces that have afforded me the possibility of exhibiting my images.
Surviving Genocide, Dispossession and Erasure From when the Dutch set up a supply post and garrison in the Cape of Good Hope in 1652, until the British annexed the Cape in 1803, Khoi and San/Bushman were subjected to what amounted to genocide, progressively losing access to land which had traditionally been theirs, and steadily becoming the subjects of the various forces arrayed against them, especially the ‘Free-Burghers’ who progressively encroached on their historic territory, killing resistors and enslaving their children as they settled the land in a constant need for more space to satisfy their growth into the interior.