Greetings, wouldn’t it be cool if there was updated content here?
This project – photographyanddemocracy.com – and the funding for it, finished several years ago. Yet I’ve kept the site up as a service to the public, as I hear many find the videos useful, paying for web- and video-hosting fees etc. myself. I write additional blog posts (called dispatches) from time to time. But it’s sporadic due to the lack of funding, and me also concentrating on making a living as a freelance photographer and videographer.
I can, however, think of many additional interesting videos I would like to shoot, as well as blog posts I would like to write here. So please get in touch if you are an educational institution that would be interested in sponsoring the future of this site, and we can discuss it.
Cheers and thanks, Eva-Lotta
As South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy, photographer Joao Silva contemplates, in the NYT Lens blog, his own and the country’s journey since the struggle against Apartheid.
“Joao Silva came of age as a photographer as his native South Africa was navigating a treacherous path to democracy. Twenty years later, he reflects on what has — and has not — changed,” reads the introduction to Silva’s piece in Lens, “Twenty Years After Apartheid.”
To hear other South African photographers reflect on their work leading up to the end of Apartheid – and their thoughts on photography and democracy in South Africa, visit our own video page.
In a recent video interview by Human Rights Watch (HRW) with South African photographer and activist Zanele Muholi, the photographer speaks about her important work around hate crimes against homosexuals in South Africa.
Although South Africa’s Constitution recognises same-sex marriages, in a world where many countries don’t, black LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community have still been particularly targeted by hate crimes. Especially black lesbians are vulnerable and have been murdered and the subject of ‘curative rapes,’ often by members of the communities where they live.
Human Rights Watch released the interview with award-winning South African photographer and activist Zanele Muholi to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, that began on November 25, 2013.
The film was made as a collaboration between Muholi and filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall – the directors of the award-winning documentary “Call Me Kuchu,” which tells the story of the last year in the life of Ugandan Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) activist David Kato.
Muholi recently exhibited her work of Love & Loss at the Stevenson gallery in Johannesburg. The opening coincided with the presentation of a prestigious Prince Claus Award to Muholi.
Sydelle Willow Smith, the first recipient of the Gisèle Wulfsohn Mentorship in Photography, is exhibiting her resulting body of work ‘Soft Walls’ – exploring the relationships between migrated African nationals and South Africans – at the Market Photo Workshop, in Johannesburg.
The Workshop in association with the family of the late South African photographer Gisèle Wulfsohn in 2012 established the mentorship to honor Wulfsohn’s memory and provide an emerging photographer with the infrastructural support to develop a body of work.
“Wulfsohn dedicated her life and photography to awareness, openness and respect; she worked on issues of democracy, HIV/AIDS and positive sexual identities, social inclusion and gender issues, and maintained a commitment to education and social change. The mentorship is aimed at developing emerging voices that are committed to similar issues,” says the Market Photo Workshop.
When I meet Smith during the hanging of the show, she says she can relate to the way Wulfsohn’s photography also had needed to shift between the contrast of assignment work and personal work in the townships. The emerging photographer is quick to point out that she is neither really a photojournalist nor a news photographer, saying that her work digs deeper and that her way of shooting has been influenced greatly by her anthropology degree.
While hard news stories might portray only the negative aspects of immigration such as discrimination and xenophobic attacks, Smith says that she with ‘Soft Walls’ instead wanted to portray also the positive side of life as well as its more real, softer nuances. “The work is about the idea that while nationality, borders, race … all divide, there are people who blur those lines, who renders those walls soft,” Smith says.
“I think it’s a growing part of South Africa. These people were keen to participate to show other South Africans to not be so xenophobic,” she says. At the same time, she adds, some didn’t want to participate because they didn’t feel that their experience in South Africa is positive at all.
“There is a lot of talk on the street. People are often openly xenophobic. They make fun of Nigerian accents etc.”, she says.
Instead of applying a traditional method of telling a photo story such as ‘a day in a life of’ a person, ‘Soft Walls’ explore moments, or fragments, from several different couples’ lives in the Cape Town area. For example, we meet South African nationals in relationship with other African nationals from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
We stop in front of one of the photos I find particularly interesting. It’s of a couple sitting on a bench in what looks like a historic township area. In some ways the photo looks like it could have been taken 20 years ago, and it’s interesting that while Apartheid is officially gone, I feel an echo of it in this picture. And I reflect on the fact that perhaps it’s to these areas that many African migrants move, to communities where their mate’s ancestors where sometimes banished because of race or poor economic circumstance.
“I began photographing Dillion S. Phiri and Nokulunga Mateta-Phiri in the winter of 2012. Lunga was 8 months pregnant. Nationality is not an issue for Lunga, only when it comes to family members not understanding other African nationals – and she feels the problem lies in that people do not know each other well enough. In August 2012 she gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Wandile, who is now 17 months. Her husband, Dillion was born in Zimbabwe, to a Zimbabwean mother and Malawian father. He feels that nationality does not bother him, as even at “home” in Zimbabwe he is considered foreign,” Smith says in her caption.
In another photo, we meet “Koura at Home in Maitland. Koura is 13 and was born in South Africa, her father is from Ivory Coast and her mother is from Mali, she has never left the country,” reads Smith’s caption. Although born in South Africa, Smith says Koura is often met with name calling and discrimination against foreigners.
Meanwhile, ‘Coach Dino’s picture speaks of happy endings: “Coach Dino: Dino Estevo was born in 1990 in Beira, Mozambique. His father was a FREELIMO Soldier. He came to South Africa to find a better life, after being a successful athlete and soccer player back home. He decided to leave home, as a war torn country like Mozambique had no money for sports. Through a series of events and scams Dino found himself sleeping under a bridge in Cape Town. One day, the owner of African Brothers Football Academy in Gardens in the City Bowl, Craig Hepburn approached him and a group of friends under the bridge and asked them if they wanted to participant in a game of football in Philipi. He decided to take a chance and participate. Craig offered him work at his academy and he has been coaching and working as a caretaker ever since,” says Smith’s caption for the photograph.
Sydelle Willow Smith was born in 1987 in Johannesburg. She attended the Market Photo Workshop, where she completed her Foundation and Intermediate Courses in 2007. In 2011 she graduated from the University of Cape Town with an Honors Degree in Social Anthropology. Dave Southwood mentored Smith under the Gisèle Wulfsohn mentorship, when she created ‘Soft Walls,’ which is exhibited at the Market Photo Workshop until April 2.
Although represented by the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg - South African photographer Jodi Bieber thought it important to say ‘yes’ when young curator Zanele Mashumi asked to hang some of her Soweto work as part of a group show in Soweto. The Bombay Imagination Room, curated by Mashumi Art Projects, is a pop-up gallery on Vundla Drive in Soweto until December 6.
“I want to support Zanele and the show as I think it is wonderful that my photographic work on Soweto be shown in Soweto. It’s a great feeling when you come across young talent. It will be great to see Zanele be natured and to become a top notch curator. It’s a great feeling to see people looking at the work who might have only entered a gallery space in the suburbs,” Bieber tells photographyanddemocracy.com, after we visit the gallery together for the launch.
Zanele Mashumi has been running Mashumi Art projects in Soweto for eight months. The organization’s first Soweto setting for a show was inside a restaurant in Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, the street where Mandela’s home-turned museum is a popular tourist spot.
“We situated the gallery in a restaurant because we want to introduce the culture of art in a space that people will feel comfortable with, and not feel intimidated by the artworks that [are] on display. The clientele of locals have been improving greatly! People have been responding very well to the project. We get a lot of first time buyers,” says Mashumi.
“The main aim for Mashumi is to establish an audience in Soweto. Our long term plans is to run a traditional gallery in Soweto. To also establish a market internationally for South African artists,” she adds.
Since November 18, several South African photographers have been showcased at the Bombay Imagination Room alongside other artist, painters and performance artists.
The photographers were chosen based on the work they’ve done in Soweto and artist who live in Soweto, explains Mashumi.
“Jobi Bieber was chosen for the exhibition because of the amazing caption of the modern Soweto after the apartheid era. It was very important to have Jodi to be part of the project. Soweto has so much colour and stories to tell,” says the curator.
Bieber’s Soweto, also a book, is a portrait of life in Soweto today. Among the photographs Mashumi chose is: “an image of a couple in Rockville [an area of Soweto], which I found interesting because most interracial couples move to the North suburbs area [of Johannesburg],” she says. “In the background are small photographs of children, which are from the white man’s family and the black woman’s family. The audience in Soweto doesn’t realize that Soweto has become so diverse.”
The work of Soweto-born photographer Andrew Tshabangu is also displayed that the gallery. While Tshabangu still lives in Soweto, he often travels overseas, explains Mashumi. “His photographs that were selected for the exhibition were taken in London. The photographs are documented based on the spirituality. This particular work speaks about the Nigerian church based in London. The church has similarities with the Zion churches based in Soweto and other township areas in South Africa. Andrew Tshabangu was very intrigued by these similarities,” explains the curator.
Also emerging photographer Lungile Zaphi, who studied at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, is exhibited at the gallery. “Her photographs focus on the tavern culture in Soweto, the people and the space. In most cases people never understand the lifestyle of the taverns in Soweto; Her photographs add an educational element about the space and people,” says Mashumi.
Videos from the PhotographyAndDemocracy.com project were shown at the University of Sydney, at an event organized by its Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, in November.
The university chose to show video interviews with Cedric Nunn and Jodi Bieber, in connection with the presentation “What’s Happening in South Africa,” by Speaker Professor Pieter Fourie, of Stellenbosch University.
One of South Africa’s most well-known documentary photographers David Goldblatt, the ‘featured artist’ of this year’s FNB Joburg Art Fair, opened his talk at the fair today by speaking out against the fair’s banning of one of the exhibiting artists’ paintings.
The painting by Ayanda Mabulu reportedly depicts South African President Jacob Zuma and is themed around last year’s police shooting of miners in Marikana.
Goldblatt – an outspoken defender of the democratic rights of free speech and freedom of expression in South Africa – previously protested against censorship of another controversial painting of Zuma, The Spear, by Brett Murray. It was exhibited, and defaced, at the Goodman Gallery last year.
The photographer says it doesn’t matter who or what a painting is depicting, nor its quality, but that art fair organizers shouldn’t be censors. “To me the important thing is you banned a piece of work. You can’t do that when you invite artists to exhibit their work … because it might offend someone … perhaps in government… That’s the cost of art,” Goldblatt told photographyanddemocracy.com
At a press conference on the matter, Ross Douglas, director of art-fair organizer Artlogic explained why Mabulu’s painting was taken down before the opening. Douglas said the attention the painting was getting was not in the art fair’s interest.
“Paintings of Jacob Zuma always get attention. We felt it’s not the attention that helps the FNB Joburg Art Fair at this point,” said Douglas. “I don’t want this to be the central issue of this FNB Joburg Art Fair. It should be about African galleries showing for the first time.”
Photography and Democracy is starting ‘Dispatches from P & D’ (Photography and Democracy).
Here, P & D is branching out to talk to more image makers and beyond, into a wider discussion around these topics, also reaching out beyond South Africa.
As you know, Photography and Democracy is an online documentary project about photography and democracy in South Africa. It now takes the form of a series of video interviews with South African photographers talking about their work; South Africa then and now; Apartheid; the transition to democracy, and the state of things now.
Viewable on www.photographyanddemocracy.com, the videos are accessible to students, educators and others with an interest in photography and South Africa. The blog posts about each video (categorized ‘video blog’) are posted in the column next to this one.
It’s a wide selection of interviews with prominent South African photographers, who have been very generous with their time and insights. However, it’s of course not meant to be a final or exclusive list – but it’s hoped that the topics and events shared spark a useful reflection on history, as well as on our current- and future-democracy and photojournalism practice.
And now in ‘Dispatches from P & D,’ we hope to build on that, furthering a web of additional relevant information and discussion.
Gille de Vlieg, a home-maker and a nurse, picked up the camera mid life. It was in the 1980s, when she as a member of the Black Sash stood up against the human rights abuses of Apartheid. De Vlieg tells me about how she made friends with the young activists who fought for South Africa’s freedom, and how she came to work alongside them, documenting the struggle in the township of Tembisa.
We meet on Constitution Hill, in Johannesburg, the site of the jail where South Africa’s liberation leaders were detained. De Vlieg was once detained nearby herself, at the Hillbrow police station. Today, the photographer’s work is housed here by the South African History Archive, SAHA.
“I was never really someone who went onto the front lines in a way that, for instance, the members of the Bang Bang Club did. My approach was very much to integrate myself so that I could see from behind the lines more, and really what lead people to become activists themselves; And why was it that these young people wanted to be fighting for certain rights? You know, what took them onto the streets; Why were they able to feel that they needed to confront the police, for instance, and to change South Africa?” de Vlieg says in the video on photographyanddemocracy.com
Paul Weinberg is a documentary photographer and founding member of Afrapix, the photo collective that fought the Apartheid machine with their cameras. We meet at Weinberg’s office at the University of Cape Town, where he is the senior archivist for the visual archives. He is busy with an ambitious project preserving South African photography collections for future generations.
Weinberg who was the official photographer for the 1994 elections that saw Nelson Mandela voting for the first time tells me about his depression that ensued when freedom arrived and his resulting body of work – Moving Spirit.
“I started the project Moving Spirit just after 1994, our euphoric moment when we had found peace and there was freedom and democracy was in place. I found myself in a dark place. I encountered what the psychiatrist said was my third phase of depression. … It forced me to look at my own healing … I also used the camera to look at the healing that was going on in the country,” Weinberg says in the video interview.
If the video loads slowly, or ‘hangs,’ you could click the HD symbol in the play bar and change it to SD.