A Glimpse Back In Time: Exhibit of South African Photography

By Own Correspondent – Poignant images captured by photographers from the 1950s through to the present relate South Africa’s story of a divided land and people, and their metamorphosis into a modern, tolerant and united nation. After touring Germany, the exhibit opens in Johannesburg on October 3.

Representing a nation that also suffered from division and is today reunified, German Ambassador to South Africa Dieter Haller will officially open the exhibit “South African Photography 1950-2010: Apartheid – Struggle – Freedom”. Significantly, the opening takes place on the day of German Unity, when exactly 20 years ago, two German nations became one.

Art historian Dr. Ralf-P. Seippel has curated this historic photographic overview of South African culture and lifestyle from the 1950’s to the present. Comprising primarily of black and white photography, this extensive touring exhibition provides insight into South Africa’s social, political and cultural dimensions, as well as the economic situation and the struggle for survival in its mega-cities. It shows how South Africa has evolved into the modern nation the world knows today.

German ambassador to South Africa Dieter Haller (© Duane Daws, Engineering News)
German ambassador to South Africa Dieter Haller (© Duane Daws, Engineering News)

The exhibition is divided chronologically into three main time periods:

  • 1950-1976 Apartheid
  • 1976-1994 Struggle
  • 1994-2010 Freedom

Images presented include those by noted photographers Bonile Bam, Jodi Bieber, Pierre Crocquet, David Goldblatt, Bob Gosani, George Hallett, Alf Kumalo, Ranjith Kally, Peter Magubane, Gideon Mendel, Santu Mofokeng, G.R. Naidoo, Cedric Nunn, Mikhael Subotzky, Andrew Tshabangu, Paul Weinberg and Gille de Vlieg. They provide visitors to the exhibit with individual insights into life in South Africa over the past 60 years.

Alongside works from the above artists, there are images from the socially relevant publication from South Africa’s urban black community in the 1950s and 60s, DRUM magazine. Photographs from this era published in DRUM tell the story of life in the period of Apartheid and reveal the naked truth of segregation, as well as documenting sports events, football stars and a night life full of jazz and dancing.

Images from the 80s and 90s highlight brutal murders, demonstrations, the violence and brutality of imprisonment and the fight for freedom.

Finally, photographers working in the 21st Century show a South Africa of recovery and immense development, democracy and freedom, that simultaneously possesses an understanding of the work still to be done and the inequalities that remain. In this new South Africa everyone can vote, there is freedom of speech and gender equality thrives.

Working in close co-operation with the BAHA Archive and South African Photographers, the exhibition opened in Germany at the Willy-Brandt-Haus, Berlin.  It later appeared at the Museum Goch in May and the Stadthaus, Ulm in June, 2010.

In South Africa, as well as showing at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the exhibition will be on at the Pretoria Art Museum in March and April, 2011. The exhibit opening in Johannesburg on Sunday, October 3 will begin at 4 pm.

The exhibition is accompanied by a German/English catalogue (160 pages) published by Hatje Cantz and edited by Delia Klask and Ralf Seippel. It features articles by Andries Oliphant, Luli Callinicos and Wiebke Ratzeburg.

The exhibition, sponsored by Daimler AG, will be on display at the Johannesburg Art Gallery until January 11, 2011.