Tag Archives: South Africa

David Goldblatt Revisits “On the Mines”

As the German publisher Gerhard Steidl prepares a series of books on the life work of David Goldblatt, Jeffrey Ladd spoke with the South African photographer about the newly edited and designed release of his long out-of-print collaboration with Nadine Gordimer from 1973, On the Mines.

Jeffrey Ladd: Alongside the political and economic realities of mining Gold or other natural resources there can be any number of powerful metaphors associated with “mining.” For example: what is “on the surface” and “what is hidden”; social strata within the apartheid system; light and darkness; heaven and hell—what initially drew you working on a project about the mines?


The cover of On the Mines by David Goldblatt, published by Steidl.

David Goldblatt: I was drawn to photograph the mines not by any metaphor in which they might be seen but by their overwhelming presence in the life and landscape into which I grew. Photography offered both the justification and the medium for greatly extending experience and understandings begun in childhood.

JL: One of your earliest images, from 1947, is linked to mining. It shows an area called The Millsite dump purported by the local population to be the largest tailings dump in the world. You roamed this area and the mining estates as a child.

DG: As White children growing up in Randfontein my friends and I enjoyed almost unfettered freedom to roam among the mines that curved around our town. There were two provisions: never enter the fenced off areas that carried the skull and crossbones and the warning, ‘Caving Grounds’; and not to play on the slimes dams, formed by the mud that came from the mills. But we did play on the sand dumps, especially one called Whitey because of its fine white sand.

There was blind innocence to our meanderings on the mining estates. We took care to avoid the Pondo miners—our myth had been that they were ‘dangerous.’ We didn’t know their language, we didn’t know anyone who had been harmed by Pondos, but we feared them. We never wondered about the lives of the Black miners, living 40 to a room and far from their families.

JL: As a photographer were you able to see firsthand how the mineworkers lived in their compounds and hostels?

DG: Permission had been given to me by the ‘head office’ to take photographs in the hostel of the Western Deep Levels mines in Carletonville. Without consulting me the hostel manager sent out an instruction that men of each tribal group were to present themselves to me in tribal dress. I had no desire to do ethnographic “studies” and was preparing to withdraw. But then I saw the men and that they took the occasion very seriously and with great dignity. And so I photographed several groups.

JL: The book begins with a few photographs shot in color that date from the mid-to-late 60s, you turned to working primarily in color much later in your career, were these among the earliest of your color images? Was there a moment in working that you decided to use color?

DG: Professionally I worked in color on commissions since 1964. The color photographs in the new edition were made experimentally rather than from conviction that that was the ‘right’ medium for the subject. In addition, in the late 60s and in the 70s and 80s I did quite a lot of color photography underground for mining companies but I did not bring this into what I regard as my personal work.

JL: How were you able to gain, what appears to be, unrestricted access to the mining estates to photograph?

DG: Access to mining properties was quite severely restricted. If I was roaming on an estate that had ceased operations many years before, a mine policeman might appear suddenly as though from the earth to challenge me. Sometimes I would be allowed to proceed, sometimes not. On some properties I approached senior management first and was given permission to photograph. Photography in the compounds/hostels and underground would have been impossible without such permission.

JL: The 1973 edition of On the Mines is strikingly different from this second edition. You have redesigned, added 31 photographs and removed 11.

David Goldblatt

A spread from the book: “Notices in English, Afrikaans, Sotha, Xhosa and Tsonga, on the bank at New Modderfontein, Benoni, 1965.”

DG: The design of the original lacked wholeness and indulged in visual excesses in which I no longer believe. The first chapter (The Witwatersrand), was strongly graphic and contrasty, with some of the pictures going across the gutter; the second (Shaftsinking), was blighted by an ill-conceived attempt at drama, dropping the pictures into a black surround; the third (Mining Men), was classical one-picture-to-a-spread. In the new edition I wanted to give greater coherence and unity to the whole, and while not attempting to provide contemporary photographs, I wanted to enrich the mixture with many more photographs from the original archive. I invited Cyn van Houten, a designer with whom I had worked on magazines in South Africa and who had designed three other books for me, to design this one. We have a good understanding of each other’s thinking and so it became a real pleasure to put this book together.

JL: I recall you telling me that Sam Haskins offered advice with the design for a couple of your early books, did he help also with the 1973 edition of On the Mines?

DG: Sam’s influence is strongly evident in the first chapter of the first edition—bold, graphic, contrasty, but as far as I can recall, he was not involved with the design. Sam was remarkably generous to me. At a time when I knew nothing about using photographs in a book, he designed a dummy for my first essay, Some Afrikaners Photographed. In the end, I adopted a completely different approach from his, but in the process I learned a great deal about book design. The design of the first edition of On the Mines marked a sort of hybrid point in my understanding, where the first chapter is heavily indebted to Sam’s thinking and the last one, my departure from there.

JL: As Steidl publishes other volumes of your life’s work, will they all be completely revised and newly designed?

DG: I can’t say at this stage how we will approach subsequent books. I would hope to come to each on its merits. For me the particular attraction of a new edition is the opportunity to correct errors and to strengthen what was done originally.

The new addition of On the Mines is now available from Steidl.

David Goldblatt is an award-winning South African photographer represented by Goodman Gallery.

Jeffrey Ladd is a photographer, writer, editor and founder of Errata Editions.

Generation of Orphans: South Africa’s Children of AIDS

One night in 2003, Agnes Dlamini woke to the sound of her infant grandson crying. His mother — Dlamini’s daughter-in-law — had died after a long illness. The baby was left on top of her emaciated body, sucking helplessly at his mother’s lifeless breast.

That tragedy, Dlamini now knows, is the result of South Africa’s failure to address the spread of HIV. But back then, she had no idea. At the time, the country’s President Thabo Mbeki was sympathetic to AIDS denialists. His Minister of Health was nicknamed Dr. Beetroot for championing the plant as a treatment for HIV/AIDS. Anti­retroviral drugs weren’t available until 2004 and were difficult to obtain for many years after that.

The legacy of that denial is 3.37 million South African children under 17 without one or both parents, according to a 2011 census. Most are orphans, and some 64% are in the care of grandmothers, who bear the responsibility of a second motherhood.

The age gap makes it challenging for grand­mothers to connect with these kids and warn them about HIV. “I don’t have the right words for it,” says Dlamini, 81. “My granddaughter laughs at me when I try.” High urban unemployment, poverty and crime add to the difficulty of their task. Still, many of the gogos, the Zulu word for grandmothers, say they are hopeful they can break the cycle that claimed their children’s lives.

Elles van Gelder and Jonathan Torgovnik are based in South Africa.

Under Mugabe: Robin Hammond Records the Suffering of Zimbabwe

In December 2011 Robin Hammond, then a neighbor of mine in Cape Town, arrived in Zimbabwe for what he’d planned as his longest trip yet to a country, and a story, he knew well – several months documenting that country’s decline. There are worse places in Africa and there are plenty of uplifting stories to be had in Zimbabwe. But in the context of the stunning progress Zimbabwe achieved in its first decade of independence, its collapse over the next two is nonetheless remarkable – and the main reason Robin has covered the country so extensively since 2007. “There are very few countries that have fallen as far as fast as Zimbabwe,” says Robin. “These are educated people with high expectations who are now living in really extreme poverty.”

For months, living on a grant from the Carmignac Foundation, Robin worked his way across the country, getting to know Zimbabweans, living with them, sharing their lives. He discovered a hidden urban poverty that most journalists, myself included, have missed. “Robert Mugabe’s only been screwing it up for 20 years, so there are still some half-decent roads and buildings,” says Robin. “But you get into some of these places and they’re vertical city slums: no power, no water, no jobs. And the atmosphere. I’ve been to Congo and Somalia and all those kinds of places but I don’t think I’ve seen people as scared as the people in Zimbabwe.”

As Robin discovered, there was good reason to fear. In March, as he photographed a farm in the east of the country that had been seized by the regime, he was arrested and held overnight. A few weeks later in mid-April, he was arrested a second time as he tried to take pictures of Zimbabwean refugees crossing the Limpopo River into South Africa. In 2007 I did five days in a Zimbabwean prison in the same part of the country. Robin was held for four weeks. Most of his time was spent in a five-meter-by-10-meter cell with 37 other inmates. The prisoners had a concrete floor to sleep on, blankets infested with lice as their only covering, one toilet between 250 and, for food, slop infested with weevils. Many of his fellow prisoners had been inside for years. Eventually, Robin was deported. “They did a pretty good job of making me feel afraid,” he says.

After arriving in London, then relocating to Paris, Robin began assembling his work. What emerges in these stunning, fearful pictures, now being published in a book and shown at an exhibition which opens this week at Chapelle de l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, is an arrestingly original portrait of a country whose nightmare is far from over. Robin’s pictures lay bare in unprecedented fashion the depth of Zimbabwe’s destruction and how, for millions, there is no recovery, nor even much hope of one.

Yet, with a fresh election expected next year, hope persists. Robin says Zimbabwe has taught him a cruel lesson about that: how hope might keep you going, but how it can also be dangerous. Robin learned that for himself in prison. “When you’re told you’re going to be let out that day, then you have to go back to your cell, that can be really depressing,” he says. “You have to set your mind to the idea that you could be there for months.” For Zimbabweans, hope has proved even more perilous, says Robin. A curiosity of Mugabe’s 32-year rule has been how, even as he plundered his country, ruined it, and killed and beat his challengers, he has never extinguished his people’s belief in change. The Zimbabwean President holds elections, shares power with the opposition and negotiates a theoretical transition with Zimbabwe’s neighbors. None of these initiatives have come to anything. But to those who ponder Mugabe’s survival – about why Zimbabweans haven’t staged a second revolution – Mugabe’s repression provides one answer and his careful nurturing of hope the other. Even now, says Robin, “Zimbabweans are eternally optimistic. They always think the next election will be the one to change their lives.” It is a testament to Robin’s art and courage that the way those expectations have been so mercilessly – and so deeply and comprehensively – disappointed has rarely been better captured.

Alex Perry is TIME’s Africa bureau chief.

Robin Hammond is a photojournalist based in South Africa.

National Geographic Magazine will be publishing a story next year that will feature the work from this project. The series will also be on display from Nov. 9 through Dec. 9 at Chapelle de l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris, with an opening reception on Nov. 8.

Tearsheet of the Day | Robin Hammond’s Condemned in The Sunday Times Magazine

Finally got around to reading last weekend’s The Sunday Times Magazine. Robin Hammond’s Condemned project, which documents the treatment of mentally ill in different parts of Africa, is featured prominently in the magazine’s Spectrum section, which showcases great photography. Condemned is shown on the cover and two spreads under the title ‘Lost Souls – The brutal treatment of the mentally in Africa’. The project, which was recently exhibited at Visa pour l’image festival, has its dedicated website at condemned-africa.com.

The Sunday Times Magazine, September 23, 2012.
Photo © Robin Hammond

The Sunday Times Magazine, September 23, 2012.
Photos © Robin Hammond

Robin Hammond is a New Zealand born photographer based in South Africa. He is represented by Panos Pictures.

Remembering the Death of Steve Biko 35 Years Later

“Yah, but tell me Karon, did you know this SteveBiko?”

The purpose of the question was derisive, an Afrikaans student seeking to silence his uppity liberal classmate’s protests at the brutal murder in prison of a black political activistthe 20th to have been killed behind bars by the policemen enforcing South Africa’s apartheid system in the face of rising tide of black protest. And, of course, everyone in our high school playground huddle that sunny September day knew that I couldn’t possibly have known Steve Biko, or even to have heard of him before his name hit the headlines.

Never mind voices or rights, history or family, black people didn’t even have last names in white South African suburbia in the late 1970s. They were known only by first names easily pronounced by their white employers for purposes of instruction and command. The very presence of black people in white “Group Areas” was not tolerated, under law, except to the extent that they were in servitude to white people as housemaids, gardeners or day laborers. Any black person found on the streets of our neighborhoods who could not prove they were in the employ of a local white family faced arrest by a brutal police force for whom the adjective “racist” would have been redundant, because enforcing a white supremacist racial order was their raison d’etre.

We may have been raised and nurtured by black women, surrogate mothers named Patience or Rachel, but the black people in our world had no last names, never mind voices or opinions. There were no black people as independent actors in our world.

So, no, I did not know, or know of Steve Biko before reports of his death as a result of a savage beating by drunken security policemen made it into our newspapers. I knew nothing of his ideas about how South Africans would one day live together on the basis of equality, judged not by color or ethnicity but simply as individual citizens. I knew nothing of the inspirational work of the brilliant young medical student who had, in the finest traditions of Frantz Fanon and Malcolm X, challenged the psychology of oppression in the minds of black people that allowed white supremacism to keep them down. I knew nothing of his quick wit: Biko was once asked by a white judge in a political show trial, “Why do you people call yourselves black? You look more brown than black.” He shot back, “Why do you call yourselves white? You look more pink than white.”

But I knew apartheid was evil, having watched the regime bulldoze the shacks of peasants driven by rural poverty to settle on the periphery of Cape Town; and having watched on the TV news as the regime’s police shot dead hundreds of black high school students my age, who’d taken to the streets in the Soweto uprising to demand their rights as citizens. We were ordered, during the rebellion, to patrol our school’s grounds at night, lest the black kids the ones with last names, and very strong opinions, and little patience for racism or patronizing colonial liberalism came to burn it down. (They never did; if they had, we’d have gladly supplied the matches.)

I didn’t know Steve Biko. But his death made clear to me, and hundreds of young white people like me, what millions of black South Africans knew from experience that our country’s rulers were not only ignorant racists, but were vicious thugs to boot.

“I am not glad and I am not sorry about Mr. Biko,” Minister of Police Jimmy Kruger told a conference of the ruling party two days after Biko’s death. “It leaves me cold. I can say nothing to you. Any person who dies… I shall also be sorry if I die.” And they laughed. Like B-movie Nazis (which many of them were, having been in youth organizations aligned with Germany during WWII) they erupted in uproarious laughter, cheering on their brandy-and-coke bully boys who had beaten to death a chained captive, in their eyes nothing more than a cheeky “kaffir” (the Afrikaans equivalent of the n-word, curiously enough borrowed from the Arabic for infidel) one who had dared speak back to the white “baas” (master). Even now, it’s hard to hold back the tears of rage that poured freely when I read the detailed account of Biko’s murder.

Biko’s story reached us via the work of Donald Woods, editor of the Daily Dispatch who had the courage to break out of the white suburban bubble and had gotten to know Biko as a friend. seo marketing . And knew him as the leader of the Black Consciousness movement that had captured the imagination of a generation of city-born black youth in South Africa that were not prepared to accept the indignities routinely suffered by their parents. Filling the void left by the banning of the African National Congress a decade earlier and the imprisonment of its leaders such as Nelson Mandela, the BC movement saw itself as leading, in Biko’s words, “the cultural and political revival of an oppressed people”, bringing to South Africa the anti-colonial struggle for liberation that had swept across the continent. Woods, able to see the future in the making, was impressed, eventually earning a banning order and being forced to flee into exile. His editorial on Biko’s death introduced us to the man we would never know:

“My most valued friend, Steve Biko, has died in detention. He needs no tributes from me. He never did. He was a special and extraordinary man who at the age of 30 had already acquired a towering status in the hearts and minds of countless thousands of young blacks throughout the length and breadth of South Africa.

In the three years that I grew to know him my conviction never wavered that this was the most important political leader in the entire country, and quite simply the greatest man I have ever had the privilege to know.

Wisdom, humour, compassion, understanding, brilliancy of intellect, unselfishness, modesty, couragehe had all these attributes… The government quite clearly never understood the extent to which Steve Biko was a man of peace. He was militant in standing up for his principles, yes, but his abiding goal was a peaceful reconciliation of all South Africans.”

Biko’s funeral service was led by then Bishop Desmond Tutu, an Anglican cleric whose unwavering willingness to speak truth to power earned him a Nobel Peace Prize and still, today, marks him as a unique voice for justice in South Africa. It was a fitting tribute, even if many thousands of those who tried to reach the event were prevented from getting there by the cops, many of them dragged off buses and brutalized.
Still, Biko’s burial was an impressive send off, some 15,000 voices joined as once in chants of “Amandla! Ngawethu!” (Power is ours!) signifying the dawning recognition that black collective action would make apartheid untenable.

That spectacle was supposed to terrify me, sitting in my white suburban ghetto. But in light of Biko’s murder, and the massacre of protesting students the year before, I burned with a mountingif, at that stage, impotentrage at the racist brutality being unleashed in my name. Instead of scaring me, the idea of thousands of young black people armed with nothing but the stones in their hands and the courage in their hearts standing up to Jimmy Kruger and his thugs filled me with hope that justice would be doneand that I would see the birth of a different South Africa. Two years later, I arrived at the University of Cape Town, our portal from white suburbia into the wider, black-led political struggle.

There I finally “met” Steve Biko, through his writings, equal parts rage, humanity, profound insight and the irrepressible humor common to the truly brilliant political communicators. As we marched around our campus demanding freedom for Nelson Mandela and later, as we joined the ANC and its allied organizations fighting to end the monstrous system of apartheid, we were beginning, in our own tiny way to build the country that Steve Biko died fighting for, 35 years ago today. Comcast Cable Florida . The fight to end apartheid had claimed many thousands of lives before his, and many thousands more would be killed after Biko’s murder. But no death shook my world, and the country all around me, more than Steve Biko’s. He lives on in the best achievements of the South Africa he helped birth, and in the best instincts of those who continue to challenge its flaws.

Tony Karon is a senior editor at TIME. A native of South Africa, he now resides in New York.

Pictures of the Week: August 17 – August 24

carrera de fotografia . squido lense .

From violent clashes in Lebanon and wildfires in Spain to a disabled beauty pageant in Thailand and a Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House, TIME presents the best images of the week.

Pictures of the Week: August 10 – August 17

linkwheel . High Speed Internet For You .

From the earthquake in Iran and the killing of miners on strikeby police in South Africa to the end of Ramadan anda meteor shower over Macedonia, TIME presents the best images of the week.

Today’s Shot: Africanis dog

linkwheel creation .

Africanis dog, Sneeuberg Pass, Murraysburg district, South Africa, 2/2/2009 Africanis dog, Sneeuberg Pass, Murraysburg district, South Africa, 2/2/2009,Daniel Naud

“While on a road trip through South Africas Karoo region in 2006, Daniel Naud encountered a feral dog foaming at the mouth and wearing an intent gaze. This run-in motivated Naud to begin his series of photographs on the Africanis, wild dogs thought to have migrated from Egypt and now inhabiting the South African countryside.”

More from DanielNaud