A new photography initiative in Gauteng will follow the international trend of bringing the works of great and emergent photographers to public spaces.
Photography is considered the most democratic of art forms, and festivals like Lagos Photo, the Delhi Photo Festival and the important Swiss festival of Images Vevey all include public platforms that bring the medium directly to the people. The local initiative is called Roadhouse and for its inaugural event, it presents a photographic screening at the Casa Blanca Roadhouse in Brakpan on 1 April 2017 from 19:00 to midnight. The exhibition, which will be shown outdoors on a high-resolution, large projection screen, is titled East Rand, and it focuses on this district of enormous visual richness, and complex social evolution. The East Rand/Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality has provided inspiration for a range of photographers who have visited the region where they have produced some of their finest work to date. Each body of work takes a close look at the history, way of life and events that have taken place on the East Rand, from 1960 till today. The screening hopes to introduce Brakpan to the power of photography and bring art lovers to the area. The Roadhouse project is the initiative of photographer Marc Shoul who, himself, produced a body of work in Brakpan from 2008 to 2012. Roadhouse is committed to screening and promoting art in alternative and accessible venues to increase exposure, entertain and change perceptions. Screenings will comprise of photographic images and works of art in conjunction with DJs, musicians and performance artists. The photographers include David Goldblatt, Ronald and Torrance Ngilima, Lindokuhle Sobekwa, Marc Shoul, Sibusiso Bheka, Raymond Mokoena, and Jabulani Dhlamini; DJ Young Smuts will be mixing music to the images.
Biographies of the photographers:
David Goldblatt’s In Boksburg stands as one of the most important observations of a middle-class white community in South Africa during the apartheid years. Published in 1982, it presents an accumulation of everyday details from the community of Boksburg through which a larger portrait is revealed of white societal values within a racially divided state.
A Place of Peace
The new township would be called Thokoza (place of peace). Thokoza was the first black township to be established in the early 1950s in the the East Rand. During the early 1990s, Thokoza was involved in a rival conflict between ANC and IFP supporters where 688 people died during the violence. Sobekwa says, ‘I grew up in Phola Park, a place which is a predominantly conservative Xhosa lower-class. In the early ’90s, it was an easy target for attack by hostel settlers, due to the high density of shacks and absence of established community structures. I have been documenting Phola Park ever since I got introduced to photography, looking inside homes and the outside system. Over the years I have witnessed almost everything that one can experience; love, despair, lust, unity, pain, friendship, empathy, conflict, betrayal, forgiveness.’
At Night They Walk With Me
‘Thokoza (a Zulu word for Rejoice), located in the south-east of Johannesburg, is the location for the documentary photographs that tell a story about squatters, bond houses, RDP houses. My work is about portraying a way of living and educating the viewer to enhance the knowledge they have about the townships at night. Perhaps I can even change the way they people think about the life in townships.’
‘Daveyton is a township in Ekurhuleni, situated in Benoni. This township had a fascinating form of transport – the old Chevrolet 1960 cars that were part of our lives. I began documenting these cars during the early 2000s. Daveyton was the only township in South Africa to have so many of these cars and each car had to carry eight passengers. Most prominent taxi owners have bought minibus taxis and some are successful. Unfortunately, the original cars were replaced by new, low fuel efficiency Toyota Avansas that are continuing to be a source of transport in the Area.’
Brakpan is a gold and uranium mining town with a population of 340 000 inhabitants. It is located in the Gauteng province of South Africa, about 40km east of Johannesburg. The town was founded in the late 1800s following the discovery of coal and was named after the brackish waters of a small pan on a nearby farm. Brakpan has also been marked by key political events. At the time of the Anglo-Boer War, it was home to the country’s premiere goal-producing pit. The town’s gold mine was violently occupied by white strikers during the 1922 Rand Rebellion. And, from the 1930s, city officials began pioneering race-based segregationist policies that were later employed on a national scale during the apartheid era. While these policies have since been overtaken by the post-apartheid ethos of the ‘Rainbow Nation’, some elements of division still remain. Shoul photographed Brakpan between 2008 and 2012.
Images from a historical archive
The images in the Ronald Ngilima collection consist of commissioned portraits and documentary photographs of the communities in the Benoni Old Location and Wattville township. They depict people from various Coloured, Indian and African communities in their home on the street and in the studio that Ronald had set up in his living room. The collection contains the photographic archive of Ronald Ngilima, dating from late 1940s until he tragically died on 13 March 1960. After his death, his son Torrace continued photographing and adding his negatives to the collection for another five years. Torrace died on 19 April 1998. In 1999, Ronald’s grandson Farrell Nigeria, re-discovered the negatives which had been kept safely by Ronald’s wife Sarah. He decided to create a foundation in order to promote his grandfather’s legacy for the benefit of Wattville community and to guarantee the long-term preservation of the original negatives. In 2012, the Ronald Ngilima Photographic Archive Foundation was conceptualised by Farrell Ngilima and Sophie Feyder.
The exhibition also includes the work of Dhlamini who heads up the group Of Soul and Joy to which photographers Bheka and Sobekwa belong. While his work has focused on the township of Sharpeville, it has resonance with our themes present on the East Rand. Dhlamini explores the results of his engagement, since 2008, with the residents of Sharpeville, reflecting on the massacre that took place there on March 21, 1960, as a turning point in South African history. On that day, without warning, South African police shot into a crowd of about 5 000 unarmed anti-pass protesters at Sharpeville, an African township of Vereeniging, south of Johannesburg. The massacre took the lives of at least 69 people – many of them shot in the back – and wounding more than 200 people. Dhlamini’s Summoning Sharpeville series is created with an aim to reflect the individuality of eyewitnesses, and the survivors of the Sharpeville massacre, as they engage with the memories evoked by space and objects. It also affords them an opportunity to narrate their own story and experience.
Roadhouse | A Group Exhibition of Photographers | Picturing the East Rand/Ekhuruleni at Casa Blanca Roadhouse | Brakpan | 1 April 2017 | 19:00 to 20:00