Posts Tagged ‘South African art

26
Apr
16

Exhibition: ‘Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind’ at SCA Galleries, Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 16th March – 7th May 2016

 

Taken as a whole, the artist Roger Ballen’s body of work is exceptionally strong. From his early documentary series Dorps (1986) and Platteland (1996) which featured alienated and poverty poverty stricken whites in South Africa struggling with their place in the world after Apartheid; through my favourite series Outland (2001), Shadow Chamber (2005) and Boarding House (2009) which portrayed down and out whites on the fringe of South African society in a surrealist, performative art; to the more recent Animal Abstraction (2011), I Fink U Freeky (2013) and Asylum of the Birds (2014) … through each of these series you can trace the development of this preternatural artist, whose work seems to exist almost beyond nature itself.

The move from documentary photographer to director/collaborator/actor/observer was critical to the development of Ballen’s art. As the text on the Outland web page on Roger Ballen’s website states, “Where previously his pictures, however troubling, fell firmly into the category of documentary photography, these pictures move into the realms of fiction. Ballen’s characters act out dark and discomfiting tableaux, providing images which are exciting and disturbing in equal measure. One is forced to wonder whether they are exploited victims, colluding directly in their own ridicule, or newly empowered and active participants within the drama of their representation.” From the videos included in this posting, it is obvious that the latter statement is the correct interpretation. Through this thematic development, the viewer may come to understand the nature of the artist’s collaboration with the people, places and things that he photographs. The empathy that these photographs and videos evidence, the interchangeable director/actor roles, and the connection that he has with his subject matter gives insight into the compassion of this man. He never judges anyone. He accepts them for who they are and works with them to create these challenging art works.

Apparently these photographs, “have a singular ability to cause disquiet to the viewer.” Personally, they have never caused me disquiet for I find them quite fascinating. They follow on from a long line of photographers who have observed the marginalised in society, from the circus freak show photographs, through Diane Arbus and Arthur Tress (who also has a book called Theater of the Mind) to Joel Peter-Witkin and Roger Ballen. Much like the earlier Robert Frank’s seminal book The Americans, which featured an outsider photographing a world from a different point of view, Ballen moved to South Africa from America in 1982 and has never fully lost that outsider status. As John McDonald observes, “He has been there long enough to be an insider, but retains the probing eye of an outsider, able to see a side of life that native-born can’t see, or don’t wish to see.” And that is the point: all of these artists, with their probing eyes, can perceive difference and accept it on its own terms. They portray the world through a horizontal consciousness (an equal “living field” if you like), not a heirarchical system of privilege, power and control, where some are better, more worthy than others.

But what nature is he investigating? Is it human nature and its ability to survive under the most dire circumstances? Is it the nature of the relationship of the body to its environment, or the human to animals, or the relationship between our souls and our subconscious? It’s all of these and more. Ballen probes these nexus, the strands that connect and link our lives together: our dreams, nightmares and desires. His photographs act as a form of binding together, bringing the periphery of society into the centre (of attention). He creates an extant reality in which we are asked to question: how do we feel towards these people and how do we feel about our own lives?

He achieves this creation through the use of what I call “heightened awareness” – both situationally and subconsciously. Ballen is fully aware and receptive towards the conditions of his environment and his dreams. Instead of a desire to possess the object of his longing and then to be possessed by that desire (desire to possess / possessed by desire) Ballen has learnt, as Krishnamurti did, not to make images out of every word, out of every vision and desire. Ballen understands that he must be attentive to the clarity of not making images – of desire, of prejudice, of flattery – because only then might you become aware of the world that surrounds us, just for what it is and nothing more. He accepts what he can create and what is given to him by being fully aware. Then you are sensitive to every occasion, it brings its own right action.1 His images become a blend of the space of intimacy and world-space as he strains toward, “communion with the universe, in a word, space, the invisible space that man can live in nevertheless, and which surrounds him with countless presences.”2

His photographs become an enveloping phenomenon in which the viewer is draped in their affect… this ‘wearing of images’ is both magical and all encompassing.

We are the people in his pictures. We are their dreams.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Many thankx to SCA Galleries for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.
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  1. Concepts from KrishnamurtiBeginnings of Learning. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1978, pp. 130-131.
  2. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. (trans Maria Jolas). Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, p. xxxv.

 

 

“Archetypal levels of the deeper subconscious pervade my photographs… When I create my photographs I often travel deep into my own interior, a place where dreams and many of my images originate. I see my photographs as mirrors, reflectors, connectors into the mind… The light comes from the dark.”

 

“These pictures are a very complex way of seeing, a very complex way of viewing the world and you know perhaps this went back to the time I was in my mother’s stomach… I can’t really say what exactly is the primary cause of what I do.”

 

“So the thing is is my pictures, my better pictures or a lot of my pictures, embed themselves deeply in the subconscious, because the mind isn’t ready for those photographs, they don’t have any corresponding experience in some way or another, so the pictures tend to have more of an impact on the person’s deeper mind than something we would normally think of as disturbing because the pictures get into the mind. People aren’t used to having things get in there and stay in there and threaten their image of themselves in some way or another and so that’s why they call them disturbing, they’re not actually disturbing a better way of saying it is that if somebody has some kind of consciousness they’re actually enlightening.”

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Roger Ballen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“His raw, black & white images are alluring, fascinating and disturbing. He is one of the most important and exciting photographers of the 21st century. The intriguing work of Roger Ballen is coming to Australia, to Sydney College of the Arts (SCA), this March in the artist’s first major Sydney exhibition. Staged to coincide with the 20th Biennale of Sydney, Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind is a provocative exhibition of 75 contemporary works created by the artist over the last two decades.

Professor Colin Rhodes, Dean of the University of Sydney’s contemporary art school and curator of the exhibition, said: “For a long time Roger Ballen’s photography has trodden a path where others are too timid to tread, toying with our innermost dreams, nightmares and desires. The raw, atmospheric exhibition spaces at Sydney College of the Arts [the site of the former Rozelle Psychiatric Hospital] are the ideal setting to articulate this core aspect of Ballen’s work.”

Born in New York in 1950, Ballen has lived in Johannesburg since the 1970s. His work as a geologist took him across the countryside and led him to explore, through the camera lens, the smaller South African towns. His early photographs of the hidden lives of people living on the fringes of society made considerable impact, receiving acclaim from American writer and filmmaker Susan Sontag among others.

Through the medium of black and white photography, Ballen has achieved a unique integration of drawing, painting and installation that have been compared to the masters of art brut. His peculiar and somewhat shocking imagery confronts the viewer and drags them into the work. Viewers are participants in the work – not merely observers – taking them on a journey into the recesses of their minds, as Ballen explores his own.

Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind consists of five sections that see people, birds, animal and inanimate subjects become the ‘cast’ in an exhibition that is hard-hitting, psychological theatre. The Sydney exhibition includes a new installation work created onsite at SCA by Ballen in response to the site’s mental health history, in the labyrinth of underground cells of the former Rozelle hospital.

The show includes Ballen’s award-winning music video ‘I Fink U Freeky’ (2012) by South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord, which has received over 76 million hits on YouTube and earned a cult following. In addition, the public will be able to access his equally remarkable video works Outland and Asylum of the Birds.

The worldwide impact of Ballen’s work was celebrated in major retrospective exhibition at Washington DC’s Smithsonian National Museum of African Art from 2013 to 2014. It was this exhibition that drove Rhodes’ interest to bring Ballen’s work to Australia.

“When I first saw Ballen’s work en masse, I was struck by the role of drawing in his photos and what seemed to me a relationship with Art Brut or Outsider Art. The artist’s interest in and knowledge of Outsider Art is a key part of understanding the growth of Ballen’s identity as an international artist,” said Professor Rhodes.

Roger Ballen will present a public talk in Sydney at SCA on 9 March, ahead of the official opening of his Sydney exhibition on Tuesday 15 March. Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind is showing at SCA Galleries from 16 March to 7 May 2016. A 96-page book will accompany the exhibition featuring Ballen’s photography and an essay by Professor Rhodes.”

Press release from SCA Galleries

 

Roger Ballen. 'Caged' 2011

 

Roger Ballen
Caged
2011
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Bewitched' 2012

 

Roger Ballen
Bewitched
2012
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Untitled' 2015

 

Roger Ballen
Untitled
2015
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Twirling Wires' 2001

 

Roger Ballen
Twirling Wires
2001
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Mirrored' 2012

 

Roger Ballen
Mirrored
2012
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

 

“Ballen has no qualms about creating dramatic scenarios in his search for “archetypal” symbols that speak to the viewer’s subconscious. He began as a documentary photographer but over the years his pictures have become filled with drawings, paintings and sculptural brac-a-brac, created by the artist himself, or by his subjects. In works such as Collision (2005) or Deathbed (2010), there are no figures, but the human presence is implied by a face drawn on a pillow or the broken head of a doll. The walls in both photos are covered in crude drawings and dirty marks – signs of previous occupation…

[Ballen] argues that these images are primarily psychological, not sociological. He wants to address that deep, dark part of the mind that Freud called “the Id”. As a concept it’s more poetic than biological – a shared repositary of instinctive drives that remains buried under the trappings of civilisation…

Despite the extreme nature of her work, Diane Arbus remained within the documentary tradition, whereas a figure such as Joel-Peter Witkin constructs his own theatrical tableaux in the studio. Ballen’s work is somewhere between these two poles. The subjects of his photographs are society’s misfits, but his approach is shamelessly theatrical. His figures are not posing passively, they are collaborating with someone who has won their trust, creating a form of ad hoc performance art in bare, filthy rooms…

It’s more interesting to ask what Ballen feels when he enters such environments. To take these photos he has immersed himself in a world of violence and madness. If he has built up a rapport with his subjects it is by treating them not as freaks, but as people with their own sense of dignity. He refuses to buy into conventional distinctions about what is normal and abnormal, presumably as a legacy of his early exposure to the counterculture and the anti-psychiatry movement.”

John McDonald. “Roger Ballen,” on the John McDonald website April 7, 2016 [Online] Cited 25/04/2016

 

Roger Ballen. 'Lunchtime' 2001

 

Roger Ballen
Lunchtime
2001
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Take off' 2012

 

Roger Ballen
Take off
2012
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Cat and Mouse' 2001

 

Roger Ballen
Cat and Mouse
2001
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'School Room' 2003

 

Roger Ballen
School Room
2003
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Portrait of sleeping girl' 2000

 

Roger Ballen
Portrait of sleeping girl
2000

 

Roger Ballen. 'Deathbed' 2010

 

Roger Ballen
Deathbed
2010

 

Roger Ballen. 'Three hands' 2006

 

Roger Ballen
Three hands
2006

 

Roger Ballen. 'Head inside shirt' 2001

 

Roger Ballen
Head inside shirt
2001

 

 

SCA Galleries
Sydney College of the Arts (University of Sydney)
Kirkbride Way, off Balmain Road, Lilyfield (enter opposite Cecily Street)
Tel: +61 2 9351 1008

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday, 11am – 5pm
Saturday, 11am – 4pm (during exhibitions)

SCA Galleries website

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03
Oct
13

Exhibition: ‘Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive Part II’ at The Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm, Germany

Exhibition dates: 9th June 9 2013 – 17th May 2015

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This is the last in my trilogy of postings on exhibitions titled Distance and Desire which have featured African art from The Walther Collection, this time focusing on contemporary art.

It is quite instructive to compare this posting with the last, the exhibition My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art from Black Australia at The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane. I feel (a critical word) that there is a completely different atmosphere to most of this contemporary art when compared to the Australian iteration. Despite both groups surviving horrendous experiences and the ongoing memories of those acts, there seems to be a lightness of spirit to most of the contemporary African art, a delightful irony, a self deprecating humour, a less backward looking sadness than evidenced in the Australian work.

Of course there are intense moments when contemporary artists mine (and that is an appropriate word, for many Africans worked in servitude in the mines during the Apartheid period) the colonial archive, such as Carrie Mae Weems blood red tondos, You Became a Scientific Profile / An Anthropological Debate / A Negroid Type / A Photographic Subject (1995-1996, below) but what is more in evidence here is a dramatic sense of fashion and the performative and playful manner in which contemporary African identities are explored coupled with a strength in the representation of these identities. These are strong, forthright individuals not hidden off camera or dressed up in European dreamings imagin(in)g utopian “what ifs”; not the obvious crosses on black chests or deleted, delineated faces made of gum blossoms – but vital, alive, present human beings. While both groups of artists use traditional symbology to explore issues of identity and representation, the Australian version often seems dragged down by the portrayed dichotomy between past and present, traditional and contemporary/subversive, as though there must always be a reckoning, a longing, a sadness constantly reiterated in/with the past.

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Many thankx to The Walther Collection for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images Courtesy of The Walther Collection.

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Part II: Contemporary Reconfigurations

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Pieter Hugo. 'Nandipha Mntambo, Cape Town' 2012

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Pieter Hugo
Nandipha Mntambo, Cape Town
2012
from There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends

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Pieter Hugo’s There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends is a series of close-up portraits of the artist and his friends, all of whom call South Africa home. Through a digital process of converting colour images to black and white while manipulating the colour channels, Hugo emphasizes the pigment (melanin) in his sitters’ skins so they appear heavily marked by blemishes and sun damage. The resulting portraits are the antithesis of the airbrushed images that determine the canons of beauty in popular culture, and expose the contradictions of racial distinctions based on skin colour. As the critic Aaron Schuman writes, “although at first glance we may look ‘black’ or ‘white’, the components that remain ‘active’ beneath the surface consist of a much broader spectrum. What superficially appears to divide us is in fact something that we all share, and like these photographs, we are not merely black and white – we are red, yellow, brown, and so on; we are all, in fact, coloured.”

Text from the Stevenson Gallery website

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Sammy Baloji. 'Untitled 7' 2006

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Sammy Baloji
Untitled 7
2006
from Mémoires

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Sabelo Mlangeni. 'Outside King Mswati's palace' 2011

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Sabelo Mlangeni
Outside King Mswati’s palace
2011
from Iimbali

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Sabelo Mlangeni. 'Imbali' 2011

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Sabelo Mlangeni
Imbali
2011
from Iimbali

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David Goldblatt. 'Mineworkers in their hostel, Western Deep Levels, Carletonville' 1970

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David Goldblatt
Mineworkers in their hostel, Western Deep Levels, Carletonville
1970

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Pieter Hugo. 'Yasser Booley, Cape Town' 2011

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Pieter Hugo
Yasser Booley, Cape Town
2011
from There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends

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Pieter Hugo. 'Pieter Hugo, Cape Town' 2011

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Pieter Hugo
Pieter Hugo, Cape Town
2011
from There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends

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Pieter Hugo. 'Themba Tshabalala, Cape Town' 2011

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Pieter Hugo
Themba Tshabalala, Cape Town
2011
from There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends

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Guy Tillim. 'Mai Mai militia in training near Beni, eastern DRC, for immediate deployment with the APC (Armée Populaire du Congo), the army of the RCD-KIS-ML - Portraits I and II' December 2002

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Guy Tillim. 'Mai Mai militia in training near Beni, eastern DRC, for immediate deployment with the APC (Armée Populaire du Congo), the army of the RCD-KIS-ML - Portraits I and II' December 2002

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Guy Tillim
Mai Mai militia in training near Beni, eastern DRC, for immediate deployment with the APC (Armée Populaire du Congo), the army of the RCD-KIS-ML – Portraits I and II
December 2002

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Sabelo Mlangeni. 'Lwazi Mtshali, "Bigboy"' 2009

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Sabelo Mlangeni
Lwazi Mtshali, “Bigboy”
2009
from Country Girls

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Sabelo Mlangeni. 'Xolani Ngayi, eStanela' 2009

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Sabelo Mlangeni
Xolani Ngayi, eStanela
2009
from Country Girls

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Zanele Muholi. 'Amogelang Senokwane, District Six, Cape Town' 2009

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Zanele Muholi
Amogelang Senokwane, District Six, Cape Town
2009
from Faces and Phases

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Zanele Muholi. 'Sishipo Ndzuzo, Embekweni, Paarl' 2009

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Zanele Muholi
Sishipo Ndzuzo, Embekweni, Paarl
2009
from Faces and Phases

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“The Walther Collection is pleased to announce Part II of Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive, a three-part exhibition series curated by Tamar Garb. “Contemporary Reconfigurations” offers new perspectives on the African photographic archive, reimagining its diverse histories and changing meanings. The exhibition centers on photography and video by African and African American artists who engage critically with the archive through parody, appropriation, and reenactment.

Carrie Mae Weems introduces the themes of “Contemporary Reconfigurations” with her powerful series From Here I Saw What Happened And I Cried, a revision of nineteenth and twentieth-century anthropometric photographs of African Americans, overlaid with texts by the artist. Sammy Baloji, Candice Breitz, Zwelethu Mthethwa, and Zanele Muholi rethink the ethnographic archive in large-scale color prints, while Samuel Fosso and Philip Kwame Apagya create exuberant studio portraiture.

Sabelo Mlangeni’s black and white photo-essay, Imbali, documents the reed dances of KwaZulu-Natal, showing the display of virgins vying to be chosen as brides. Pieter Hugo’s series There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends examines ethnicity and skin tonalities through anthropological mug shots. Working in video, Berni Searle performs as a statuesque deity engaged in domestic labor in “Snow White,” and Andrew Putter gives an indigenous voice to the effigy of Marie van Riebeeck, wife of the first Dutch settler in the area known today as Cape Town, in “Secretly I Will Love You More.”

For this group of artists, a stereotype or ethnographic vision in one era may provide material for quotation, irreverent reworking, or satirical performance in another. Illustrating how the African archive – broadly understood as an accumulation of representations, images, and objects – figures in selected contemporary lens-based practices, the exhibition stages a dialogue between the distance of the past and the desiring gaze of the present.”

Press release from The Walther Collection website

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Zwelethu Mthethwa. 'Untitled' 2010

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Zwelethu Mthethwa
Untitled
2010
from The Brave Ones
Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

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Samuel Fosso. 'La femme américaine libérée des années 70' 1997

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Samuel Fosso
La femme américaine libérée des années 70
1997

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Samuel Fosso. 'Le Chef qui a vendu l'Afrique aux colons' 1997

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Samuel Fosso
Le Chef qui a vendu l’Afrique aux colons
1997

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Zanele Muholi. 'Miss D'vine I' 2007

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Zanele Muholi
Miss D’vine I
2007

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Zanele Muholi. 'Miss D'vine II' 2007

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Zanele Muholi
Miss D’vine II
2007

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Candice Breitz. 'Ghost Series #9' 1994-1996

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Candice Breitz
Ghost Series #9
1994-1996

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Candice Breitz. 'Ghost Series #4' 1994-1996

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Candice Breitz
Ghost Series #4
1994-1996

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Carrie Mae Weems. 'You Became a Scientific Profile / An Anthropological Debate / A Negroid Type / A Photographic Subject' 1995-1996

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Carrie Mae Weems
You Became a Scientific Profile / An Anthropological Debate / A Negroid Type / A Photographic Subject
1995-1996
from From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried
Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

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Andrew Putter. 'Secretly I Will Love You More' 2007 (video still)

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Andrew Putter
Secretly I Will Love You More (video still)
2007
Courtesy of the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

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Sue Williamson. 'Helen Joseph' 1983

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Sue Williamson
Helen Joseph
1983
from A Few South Africans

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Helen Beatrice Joseph (née Fennell) (8 April 1905 – 25 December 1992) was a South African anti-apartheid activist.

Helen Joseph was born in Easebourne near Midhurst West Sussex, England and graduated from King’s College London, in 1927. After working as a teacher in India for three years, Helen came to South Africa in 1931, where she met and married a dentist, Billie Joseph. In 1951 Helen took a job with the Garment Workers Union, led by Solly Sachs. She was a founder member of the Congress of Democrats, and one of the leaders who read out clauses of the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People in Kliptown in 1955. Appalled by the plight of black women, she was pivotal in the formation of the Federation of South African Women and with the organisation’s leadership, spearheaded a march of 20,000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against pass laws on August 9, 1956. This day is still celebrated as South Africa’s Women’s Day.

She was a defendant at the 1956 Treason Trial. She was arrested on a charge of high treason in December 1956, then banned in 1957. The treason trial dragged on for four years but she was acquitted in 1961. In spite of her acquittal, in 13 October 1962, Helen became the first person to be placed under house arrest under the Sabotage Act that had just been introduced by the apartheid government. She narrowly escaped death more than once, surviving bullets shot through her bedroom and a bomb wired to her front gate. Her last banning order was lifted when she was 80 years old. Helen had no children of her own, but frequently stood in loco parentis for the children of comrades in prison or in exile. Among the children who spent time in her care were Winnie and Nelson Mandela’s daughters Zinzi and Zenani and Bram Fischer’s daughter Ilsa. Helen Joseph died on the 25 December 1992 at the age of 87. (Text from Wikipedia)

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Sue Williamson. 'Miriam Makeba' 1987

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Sue Williamson
Miriam Makeba
1987
from A Few South Africans

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Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 9 November 2008), nicknamed Mama Africa, was a Grammy Award-winning South African singer and civil rights activist.

In the 1960s, she was the first artist from Africa to popularize African music around the world. She is best known for the song “Pata Pata”, first recorded in 1957 and released in the U.S. in 1967. She recorded and toured with many popular artists, such as Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, and her former husband Hugh Masekela. Makeba campaigned against the South African system of apartheid. The South African government responded by revoking her passport in 1960 and her citizenship and right of return in 1963. As the apartheid system crumbled she returned home for the first time in 1990. Makeba died of a heart attack on 9 November 2008 after performing in a concert in Italy organised to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation local to the region of Campania. (Text from Wikipedia)

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Kudzanai Chiurai. 'The Black President' 2009

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Kudzanai Chiurai
The Black President
2009

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Zanele Muholi. 'Ms Le Sishi I, Glebelands, Durban' January 2010

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Zanele Muholi
Ms Le Sishi I, Glebelands, Durban
January 2010
from Beulahs (Beauties)

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Zanele Muholi. 'Martin Machapa' 2006

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Zanele Muholi
Martin Machapa
2006
from Beulahs (Beauties)

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Philip Kwame Apagya. 'Come on Board' 2000

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Philip Kwame Apagya
Come on Board
2000

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Philip Kwame Apagya. 'After the Funeral' 1998

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Philip Kwame Apagya
After the Funeral
1998

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The Walther Collection
Reichenauer Strasse 21
89233 Neu-Ulm, Germany

Opening hours:
Thurs – Sunday by appointment and with guided tour only
Public tours Saturday and Sunday at 3pm by appointment only

The Walther Collection website

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13
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive Part III: Poetics and Politics’ at The Walther Collection Project Space, New York: Part 2

Exhibition dates: 22nd March – 18th May 2013

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“Distance invokes travel, geographic dichotomies, estrangement, otherness, and separation in time. Whereas desire implies proximity, closeness, affect, and unfulfilled longing.”

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Part 2 of the posting about the exhibition Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive Part III. I have added notes under some of the photographs to give context to the tribes, the people and the titles of the photographs. For more information see The New Yorker: Photo Booth’s interview with curator South African scholar Tamar Garb.

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*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHS OF FEMALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

Many thankx to The Walther Collection for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Samuel Baylis Barnard. 'Damara Servant Girl, S. Africa' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Samuel Baylis Barnard, inscribed:
Damara Servant Girl, S. Africa
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

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Unidentified photographer. 'Photograph of a young woman' East Africa, Early twentieth century

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Unidentified photographer
Photograph of a young woman
East Africa, Early twentieth century
Gelatin-silver developed-out print

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Samuel Baylis Barnard. 'Zulu Kaffir' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Samuel Baylis Barnard, inscribed:
Zulu Kaffir
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

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Unidentified photographer. 'Studio photograph of a man' East Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer
Studio photograph of a man
East Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

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Apparently, this man is from Adendowa’ tribe, eastern Sudan.

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Unidentified photographer. 'Monsiga Chief of Mafeking' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Monsiga Chief of Mafeking
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print mounted on album page

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Mahikeng – formerly, and still commonly, known as Mafikeng and historically Mafeking in English – is the capital city of the North-West Province of South Africa. It is best known internationally for the Siege of Mafeking, the most famous engagement of the Second Boer War.

Located close to South Africa’s border with Botswana, Mahikeng is 1,400 km (870 mi) northeast of Cape Town and 260 km (160 mi) west of Johannesburg. In 2001, it had a population of 49,300. In 2007, Mafikeng was reported to have a population of 250,000 of which the CBD constitutes between 69,000 and 75,000. It is built on the open veld at an elevation of 1,500 m (4,921 ft), by the banks of the Upper Molopo River. TheMadibi goldfields are some 15 km (9.3 mi) south of the town.

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A. James Gribble. 'Masupa. Kaffir Chief & sons. Basutoland' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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A. James Gribble, inscribed:
Masupa. Kaffir Chief & sons. Basutoland
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

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Basutoland or officially the Territory of Basutoland, was a British Crown colony established in 1884 after the Cape Colony’s inability to control the territory. It was divided into seven administrative districts; Berea, Leribe, Maseru, Mohales Hoek, Mafeteng, Qacha’s Nek and Quthing.

Basutoland was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the United Kingdom on October 4, 1966.

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W. Rausch. 'Indaba of Induna Chiefs, Buluwayo' Zimbabwe, 1890s

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W. Rausch, inscribed:
Indaba of Induna Chiefs, Buluwayo
Zimbabwe, 1890s
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print mounted on card

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InDuna (plural: izinDuna) is a Zulu title meaning advisorgreat leaderambassadorheadman, or commander of group of warriors. It can also mean spokesperson or mediator as the izinDuna often acted as a bridge between the people and the king. The title was reserved for senior officials appointed by the king or chief, and was awarded to individuals held in high esteem for their qualities of leadership, bravery or service to the community. The izinDuna would regularly gather for an indaba to discuss important issues. An indaba is an important conference held by the izinDuna (principal men) of the Zulu or Xhosa peoples of South Africa. (Text from Wikipedia)

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Unidentified photographer. 'Dressing hair. Women of the E. Coast. Africa' Tanzania, early twentieth century

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Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Dressing hair. Women of the E. Coast. Africa
Tanzania, early twentieth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print mounted on album page

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Unidentified photographer. 'Studio photograph of a man' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer
Studio photograph of a man
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Carte de visite

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Gray Brothers (Diamond Fields). 'Zulu / Young Warrior in fighting order, and in skin Kaross. Armed with hatchet and assegai' South Africa. c. 1870s

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Gray Brothers (Diamond Fields), inscribed:
Zulu / Young Warrior in fighting order, and in skin Kaross. Armed with hatchet and assegai
South Africa. c. 1870s
Carte de visite

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G. F. Williams. 'Studio photograph of two women' South Africa, c. 1870s

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G. F. Williams
Studio photograph of two women
South Africa, c. 1870s
Carte de visite

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Lawrence Brothers, Cape Town (attr.). 'Kaffir girl' South Africa, c. 1870s

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Lawrence Brothers, Cape Town (attr.), inscribed:
Kaffir girl
South Africa, c. 1870s
Carte de visite

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Unidentified photographer. 'Portrait of King Khama III' South Africa, early twentieth century

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Unidentified photographer
Portrait of King Khama III
South Africa, early twentieth century

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Khama III (1837?-1923), also known as Khama the Good, was the kgosi (meaning chief or king) of the Bamangwato people of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), who made his country a protectorate of the United Kingdom to ensure its survival against Boer and Ndebele encroachments.

After Khama became king in 1875, after overthrowing his father Sekgoma and elbowing away his brother Kgamane his ascension came at a time of great dangers and opportunities. Ndebele incursions from the north (from what is now Zimbabwe), Boer and “mixed” trekkers from the south, and German colonialists from the West, all hoping to the seize his territory and its hinterlands. He answered these challenges by aligning his state with the administrative aims of the British, which provided him with cover and support, and, relatedly, by energetically expanding his own control over a much wider area than any “kgosi” before him. Khama converted to Christianity, which moved him to criminalize sectarianism and to deprecate the institutions favored by traditionalists. At Khama’s request stringent laws were passed against the importation of alcohol. (Text from Wikipedia)

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G. T. Ferneyhough (attr.) and unidentified photographers. 'Albumen prints mounted to album page' South Africa, last third of the nineteenth century

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G. T. Ferneyhough (attr.) and unidentified photographers
Albumen prints mounted to album page
South Africa, last third of the nineteenth century

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G. T. Ferneyhough (attr.), Crewes & Van Laun (attr.), H. F. Gros (attr.), and unidentified photographers. 'Album page with photographs of Cetshwayo and his family, Chief Sekhukhune, and unidentified persons' South Africa, last third of the nineteenth century

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G. T. Ferneyhough (attr.), Crewes & Van Laun (attr.), H. F. Gros (attr.), and unidentified photographers
Album page with photographs of Cetshwayo and his family, Chief Sekhukhune, and unidentified persons
South Africa, last third of the nineteenth century

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The bottom right hand text says, “Cetshwayo’s wives who came to England.” Obviously on the ship that took the King to England in 1882 (see below)

Invading Zululand
Lieutenant-General Sir Frederic Thesiger, 2nd Baron Chelmsford, led the invasion of Zululand on 11 January, with British centre column crossing at Rorke’s Drift. Additional British forces massed at Lower Drift on the Thukela River, near the coast, and on the north-western border near Utrecht.

Isandlawana and Rorke’s Drift
Despite an early success at Isandlwana (22 January) where 24,000 Zulu warriors overran the British camp of 1,700 – over 1,300 British and Imperial troops were annihilated (only 60 of the survivors were Europeans). That evening the small garrison at Rorke’s Drift regained British self-respect by defending the (hospital) station against a force of more than 3,000 Zulu warriors.

Defeat at Ulundi
Cetshwayo’s army was finally defeated at oNdini (Ulundi) on 4 July 1879 and his royal homestead burnt to the ground. Although Cetshwayo escaped from oNdini, he was soon captured in the Ngome Forest by British dragoons (28 August). He was informed by Shepstone that he was to be exiled from Zululand and that the nation would be divided into 13 independent chiefdoms under the authority of the British.

Exile
On 15 September 1879 Cetshwayo was dispatched to Cape Town. He was held as a prisoner of war until February 1881 when he was transferred from the castle to Oude Molen, a farm on the Cape Flats.

In 1882 Cetshwayo was permitted to travel to England for audience with Queen Victoria – he petitioned for his return to Zululand as ruler. He was a hit amongst London society and became a favorite of the public.

Cetshwayo was returned in secret to Zululand on 10 January 1883. He was met at Port Durnford by Sir Theophilus Shepstone (who was brought out of retirement for the process). Shepstone arranged the details of Cetshwayo’s restoration (29 January), but he was not permitted an army to defend his somewhat reduced ‘nation’ — part of the arrangement was that the north of Zululand was to be put under the control of his rival, Zibhebhu kaMaphitha.

Defeat and Retreat
By March 1883 Zibhebhu was moving against Cetshwayo’s supporters in his assigned northern territory and Cetshwayo’s uSuthu marched against him. The uSuthu were defeated and driven into Transvaal and back south to oNdini. The civil war between Cetshwayo and Zibhebhu ranged across the Mahlabathini plain and the uSuthu was once again defeated. Whilst Cetshwayo and his 15-year old heir, Dinizulu, were able to escape the capital of oNdini and hide out in the Nkandla forest, theuSuthu leadership was decimated. Cetshwayo was escorted to Eshowe by Henry Francis Fynn jr, the British Resident in Zululand, on the 15 October 1883.

A Disputed Cause of Death
On the afternoon of 8 February 1884 Cetshwayo died. Although officially recorded as a heart attack (Surgeon Scott, the resident military medical officer, was refused permission to do an autopsy and so could record no other cause). However an abortive assassination attempt (by poison) was made against Mnyamana kaNgqengelele, chief of the Buthelezi and Cetshwayo’s chief inDuna, around the same so time it seems likely that Cetshwayo was also poisoned.

Text from the African History website

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Unidentified photographers. 'Albumen prints mounted to album page' South Africa, late nineteen century

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Unidentified photographers
Albumen prints mounted to album page
South Africa, late nineteen century

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Unidentified Photographer. 'Native Policemen' South Africa, late nineteen century

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Unidentified photographer
Native Policemen
South Africa, late nineteen century
from Albumen prints mounted to album page

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Unidentified Photographer. 'Portrait of a Man' (detail) South Africa, late nineteen century

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Unidentified Photographer
Portrait of a Man (detail)
South Africa, late nineteen century
from Albumen prints mounted to album page

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Notice how the white spots have been painted on by the photographer after exposure, presumably to “exoticize” the noble savage.

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Unidentified photographers. 'Album page' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographers
Album page
South Africa, late nineteenth century

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The Walther Collection Project Space

Suite 718, 508-526 West 26th Street
New York
T: +1 212 352 0683

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Saturday from 12pm – 6pm

The Walther Collection website

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20
Feb
13

Exhibition: ‘South Africa in Apartheid and After: David Goldblatt, Ernest Cole, Billy Monk’ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Exhibition dates: 1st December 2012 – 5th March 2013

 

“We were insiders, all three of us: Ernest Cole, Billy Monk, and me. We each photographed from the inside what we most intimately knew.

Cole was born Ernest Levi Tsoloane Kole in 1940, to a working-class Black family in a Black township outside the city of Pretoria. Growing into that society he came to know, with a depth of understanding that only belonging could bring, both its richness and the hardship and humiliation imposed by apartheid. As a boy he photographed people in the township for a shilling a time. By the age of eighteen he had begun to work as a photojournalist, and within a few years he was deeply committed to his essay on what it meant to be Black under apartheid. At age twenty-six, to escape the Security Police and to publish his seminal book, House of Bondage, he went into bitter and destructive exile. Cancer killed him in 1990. Apartheid destroyed him.

Billy Monk’s photographs have the frank and warm intimacy that comes to someone who was completely trusted by his subjects. They are of a tiny splinter of another way of being: a place in apartheid South Africa of neither Black nor White but of somewhere not quite in between. Not quite, because while Blacks would not have gained participatory entrance to the Catacombs nightclub, people “of colour” did, and mixed there freely with Whites. It was a question of bending the law – within limits. Here you were judged not by your conformity with the pathological rigidities of Calvinism gone mad, but by your immersion in the conviviality of brandy and Coke. We will never know what might have become of the eye of Billy Monk, for in 1982 he died at age forty-five in a brawl while on his way to the first exhibition of his work. He has left us what the photographer Paul Graham might describe as a sliver of possibility.

My series In Boksburg tells of what it meant to be White in a middle-class South African community during the years of apartheid. It was a place of quiet respectability such as might be found in innumerable towns around the world. Except that Blacks were not of it. They were the largest component of its population; they served it, traded with it, received charity from it, and were ruled, rewarded, and punished by its precepts. Some, on occasion, were its privileged guests. But all who went there did so by permit or invitation, never by right. White and Black: locked into a system of manic control and profound immorality. Simply to draw breath was to be complicit. Heroism or emigration seemed to offer the only escape.

That’s how it was and is no longer.”

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David Goldblatt

 

 

It is the work of Billy Monk that is most impressive in this posting. Photographed in the rowdy Cape Town nightclub The Catacombs in the 1960s, Monk’s photographs of the racially mixed clientele portray them in extraordinary intimacy in all their states of joy and sadness. While his protagonists take centre stage within his photographs there is a wonderful spatial openness to Monk’s 35mm flash images photographed with a slightly wide angle 35mm lens. Monk does not fill the pictorial frame; he allows his images to breathe. Witness (and that is what he did) the moment of stasis before kiss of The Catacombs, 30 September 1967 (below), the intensity of the man’s passionate embrace, gaze, the sublime distance between bottle at right and bottle top, the image replete with blank, contextless wall behind. There is passion and hilarity here coupled with a feeling of infinite sadness – the squashed faces of The Catacombs, 31 July 1967, the convivial happiness of the couple in The Catacombs, 5 February 1968 (he with his stained trouser leg) counterbalanced by the desolate looking man behind them and the mute expression on the trapped go-go dancers face in The Balalaika, December 1969 as the man reaches his hand through the bars towards her.

Observe the masterpiece that is The Catacombs, 21 November 1967 (below). The cheap Formica bench top and empty Coca-Cola bottle with straw, a half smoked cigarette pointing out of the photograph at bottom right. If the cigarette wasn’t there the image would fall away in that corner: it HAS to be there, an Monk’s eye knew it. The women, standing, singing? holding two bottles of liquor in her out thrust arms, her eyes and hair mimicking the patterns of the painted Medusa behind her. And the young man dressed in jacket and time, one arm outstretched and resting on the bench, the other resting curled up next to his mouth and cheek. It’s his look that gets you – she, declamatory; he, lost in melancholic reverie, with the troubles of the world on his shoulders totally oblivious to her performance. The emotional distance between the two, as the distance between his resting hand and the empty Coke bottle, is enormous, insurmountable. Such a profound and troubling image of a society in hedonistic denial. His look is the look of loneliness, anguish and despair.

These photographs that are the eye of Billy Monk, these slivers of possibility, should not be regarded as a “what if he had lived” sliver, but the silver possibility of what he did see when he was alive. They are a celebration of his informed eye and a recognition of his undoubted talent. I am moved by their pathos and humanity.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Read the text sections of the exhibition (2.8Mb pdf)

 

 

Ernest Cole. 'A student who said he was going to fetch his textbook is pulled in. To prove he was still in school he showed his fountain pen and ink-stained fingers. But that was not enough; in long pants he looked older than sixteen' 1960–1966

 

Ernest Cole
A student who said he was going to fetch his textbook is pulled in. To prove he was still in school he showed his fountain pen and ink-stained fingers. But that was not enough; in long pants he looked older than sixteen
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 12 5/8 in. (22 cm x 32 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'After processing they wait at railroad station for transportation to mine. Identity tag on wrist shows shipment of labor to which man is assigned' 1960-1966

 

Ernest Cole
After processing they wait at railroad station for transportation to mine. Identity tag on wrist shows shipment of labor to which man is assigned
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 12 5/8 in. (22 x 32 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'Africans throng Johannesburg station platform during late afternoon rush' 1960–1966

 

Ernest Cole
Africans throng Johannesburg station platform during late afternoon rush
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 12 5/8 in. (22 x 32 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'Every African must show his pass before being allowed to go about his business. Sometimes check broadens into search of a man's person and belongings' 1960-1966

 

Ernest Cole
Every African must show his pass before being allowed to go about his business. Sometimes check broadens into search of a man’s person and belongings
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 12 5/8 in. (22 x 32 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'Untitled [White Washroom]' 1960-1966

 

Ernest Cole
Untitled [White Washroom]
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
12 5/8 x 8 11/16 in. (32 x 22 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'Newspapers are her carpet, fruit crates her chairs and table' 1960-1966

 

Ernest Cole
Newspapers are her carpet, fruit crates her chairs and table
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
12 5/8 x 8 11/16 in. (32 x 22 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

 

“From December 1, 2012, through March 5, 2013, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) presents South Africa in Apartheid and After: David Goldblatt, Ernest Cole, Billy Monk, featuring work by three photographers that illuminates a rich and diverse photographic tradition as well as a vital, difficult, and contested period in the history of South Africa. The exhibition continues the museum’s longstanding commitment to documentary photography, showcasing the greatest breadth of each artist’s work ever shown in San Francisco, and in the U.S. for Cole and Monk. Organized by Sandra S. Phillips, SFMOMA’s senior curator of photography, South Africa in Apartheid and After brings together more than 120 photographs.

“South Africa is proving to be a very fertile and active area for contemporary photography, to which David Goldblatt’s contributions and longstanding concerns have contributed significantly,” notes Phillips. “With this show we hope to show some of this rich and varied activity.”

The internationally recognized artist David Goldblatt (b. 1930) has created an immense and powerful body of work depicting his native South Africa for a half century. The exhibition features photographs from Goldblatt’s early project In Boksburg (1982), which portrays a suburban white community near Johannesburg shaped by what the artist calls “white dreams and white proprieties.” Losing its distinctiveness in the accelerated growth of development, Boksburg could almost be mistaken for American suburbia in Goldblatt’s pictures, made in 1979 and 1980. In them, the quaintness of small-town life in South Africa is startlingly set against the increasing entrenchment of racial inequality in the country under apartheid.

Offering multiple perspectives on South Africa during this period, the work of Ernest Cole and Billy Monk are presented in the exhibition at Goldblatt’s suggestion. Adding an important dimension to Goldblatt’s Boksburg project is the work of Cole (1940-1990), a black South African photographer who documented the other side of the racial divide until he was forced to leave his country in 1966. The following year, his project was published in the United States as the book, House of Bondage, and immediately banned in South Africa; this major critique of apartheid has hardly been seen in his own country. In 2006, Goldblatt received the Hasselblad Award and became aware of Cole’s original, uncropped prints. Goldblatt was instrumental in helping bring Cole’s work to international prominence, assisting in organizing a retrospective tour of the work, and championing an accompanying book project, Ernest Cole Photographer (2010). Selected works from the publication are included in the SFMOMA exhibition, featuring pictures that are eloquent, tragic, and deeply humane without a trace of sensationalism. Billy Monk (1937-1982) was a gregarious self-taught photographer who worked as a bouncer in the rowdy Cape Town nightclub The Catacombs in the 1960s. His work, recovered and reprinted posthumously by South African photographer Jac de Villiers, exists as a raw and beautiful record of the port city’s racially mixed population. These three groups of pictures are complemented by a selection of Goldblatt’s post-apartheid photographs, including large color triptychs of beautiful and sober yet hopeful records of an imperfect, still evolving democracy.

The work of all three photographers are also featured in the ongoing exhibition Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life at the International Center of Photography, New York (September 14, 2012-January 6, 2013), and Goldblatt and Cole are included in Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s at Barbican Art Gallery, London (September 13, 2012-January 13, 2013).

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 30 September 1967' 1967

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 30 September 1967
1967, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
10 1/16 x 14 15/16 in. (25.56 x 37.94 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 31 July 1967' 1967

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 31 July 1967
1967, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print; 11 x 16 in. (27.94 x 40.64 cm)
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 5 February 1968' 1968

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 5 February 1968
1968, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
11 x 16 in. (27.94 x 40.64 cm)
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 1968' 1968

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 1968
1968, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
11 x 16 in. (27.94 x 40.64 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Balalaika, December 1969' 1969

 

Billy Monk
The Balalaika, December 1969
1969, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
16 x 11 in. (40.64 x 27.94 cm)
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 21 November 1967' 1967

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 21 November 1967
1967, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
15 x 10 in. (38.1 x 25.4 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

 

David Goldblatt

Born in Randfontein, South Africa, Goldblatt first started photographing his native country in 1948, the same year the National Party came to power and instituted the policy of apartheid. Since then, he has devoted himself to documenting the South African people, landscape, and cities. Goldblatt photographed exclusively in black and white until the late 1990s. Following the end of apartheid and South Africa’s democratic elections in 1994, he looked for new expressive possibilities for his work and turned to color and digital photography. This transition only took place after developments in scanning and printing technology allowed Goldblatt to achieve the same sense of depth in his color work as in his black and white photographs.

In 1989 Goldblatt founded the Market Photography Workshop in Johannesburg with “the object of teaching visual literacy and photographic skills to young people, with particular emphasis on those disadvantaged by apartheid,” he has said. In 1998 he was the first South African to be given a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. That year, the retrospective David Goldblatt, Fifty-one Years began its international tour, traveling to New York, Barcelona, Rotterdam, Lisbon, Oxford, Brussels, Munich, and Johannesburg. He was also one of the few South African artists to exhibit at Documenta 11 (2002) and Documenta 12 (2007) in Kassel, Germany. In addition to numerous other solo and group exhibitions, Goldblatt was featured recently in solo shows at the New Museum (2009), the Jewish Museum (2010) in New York – which also traveled to the South African Jewish Museum – and the Victoria and Albert Museum (2011).

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Ernest Cole

Cole left school at 16 as the Bantu education for black South Africans during apartheid prepared them only for menial jobs. Essentially self taught, Cole worked early on as a layout and darkroom assistant for Drum Magazine, a publication loosely inspired by Life magazine and directed toward the native African population. Cole was relatively mobile due to his racial reclassification as “coloured,” the designation for mixed race, that likely stemmed from his ability to speak Afrikaans, the langauge of Afrikaners. However, Cole was closely surveilled and had to photograph covertly, so he always worked at the risk of being arrested and jailed. He believed passionately in his mission to tell the world in photographs what it was like and what it meant to be black under apartheid, and identified intimately with his own people in photographs. With imaginative daring, courage, and compassion, he portrayed the full range of experience of black people as they negotiated their lives through apartheid.

In 1966, Cole decided to leave South Africa with a dream of making a book; House of Bondage was eventually published in the U.S. in 1967. The book, and Cole himself, were immediately banned in South Africa, and Cole passed away after more than 23 years of painful exile, never returning to his home country and leaving no known negatives and few prints of his monumental work. Tio fotografer, an association of Swedish photographers with whom Cole worked from 1970 to 1975 while living in Stockholm, received a collection of his prints, and these were later donated to the Hasselblad Foundation in Sweden.When David Goldblatt received the Hasselblad award in 2006, he viewed the works and then collaborated with the foundation to bring Cole’s work to light. Many of the prints were shown publicly for the first time in the traveling 2010 retrospective Ernest Cole Photographer, which offered new insights to the complex interaction between Cole’s unflinching revelations of apartheid at work and the power, yet subtlety and even elegance, of his photographic perspective. Ernest Cole Photographer has only been seen in South Africa and Sweden. Approximately one-third of Cole’s photographs on view in the SFMOMA exhibition have never been shown before.

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Billy Monk

Using a Pentax camera with 35mm lens, Monk photographed the nightclub revellers of The Catacombs and sold the prints to his subjects. His close friendships with many of the people in the pictures allowed him to photograph them with extraordinary intimacy in all their states of joy and sadness. His pictures of nightlife seem carefree and far away from the scars and segregation of apartheid that fractured this society in the daylight.

In 1969, Monk stopped taking photographs at the club. A decade later his contact sheets and negatives were discovered in a studio by photographer Jac de Villiers, who recognized the significance of his work and arranged the first exhibition of Monk’s work in 1982 at the Market Gallery in Johannesburg. Monk could not attend the opening, and two weeks later, en route to seeing the exhibition, he was tragically shot dead in a fight. From 2010 to 2011, De Villiers revisited Monk’s contact sheets and curated an exhibition at the  Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town, including works that had never been shown before, accompanied by a publication.”

Press release from the SFMOMA website

 

David Goldblatt. 'At a meeting of Voortrekkers in the suburb of Witfield' 1979-1980

 

David Goldblatt
At a meeting of Voortrekkers in the suburb of Witfield
1979-1980
Gelatin silver print
14 9/16 x 14 9/16 in. (37 x 37 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, South Africa
© David Goldblatt

 

David Goldblatt. 'Eyesight testing at the Vosloorus Eye Clinic of the Boksburg Lions Club' 1980

 

David Goldblatt
Eyesight testing at the Vosloorus Eye Clinic of the Boksburg Lions Club
1980
Gelatin silver print
19 11/16 x 19 11/16 in. (50 x 50 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, South Africa
© David Goldblatt

 

David Goldblatt. 'Saturday afternoon in Sunward Park' 1979

 

David Goldblatt
Saturday afternoon in Sunward Park
1979
Gelatin silver print
6 7/8 x 6 7/8 in. (17.5 x 17.5 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, purchase through a gift of Mark McCain and the Accessions Committee Fund
© David Goldblatt

 

 

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151 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

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San Francisco Museum of Modern Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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