Johannesburg, South Africa
“Rise and Fall of Apartheid” offers the first comprehensive historical overview of the pictorial response to apartheid ever undertaken. Through its images, this exhibition explores the significance of the 50-year-long civil rights struggle, from how apartheid defined and marked South Africa’s identity from 1948 to 1994, to the rise of Nelson Mandela, and finally its lasting impact on the country’s society. The exhibition examines the aesthetic power of the documentary form – from the photo essay to reportage, social documentary to photojournalism and art – in recording, analyzing, articulating, and confronting the legacy of apartheid and its effect on everyday life in South Africa.
In 1948, after the victory of the National Party, apartheid was introduced as official state policy. Over time, the system of apartheid grew increasingly ruthless and violent toward Black Africans and other non-white communities. It not only transformed the modern political meaning of citizenship, but also invented a wholly new society. The result was a reorganization of civic, economic, and political structures that penetrated even the most mundane aspects of social existence – from housing, public amenities, and transportation, to education, tourism, religion, and businesses.
A central premise of this exhibition is that South African photography, as we know it today, was essentially invented in 1948. The exhibition argues that the rise of the National Party to political power and the introduction of apartheid as the legal foundation of governance changed the pictorial perception of the country from a purely colonial space based on racial segregation to a highly contested space based on the ideals of equality, democracy, and civil rights. Photography was almost instantaneously aware of this change and responded by transforming its own visual language from a purely anthropological tool to a social instrument, and because of this, no one else photographed South Africa and the struggle against apartheid better, more critically and incisively, with deeper pictorial complexity, and more penetrating insight than South African photographers.
A comprehensive, dramatic exhibition of the visual record of Apartheid, focusing on South Africans' own perspective.