CityLife Arts

The power of photography as art medium in context of recent unrest in South Africa

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

This week  on social media, on  online publications on TV, and newspapers, we have been bombarded by a lot of  images both fake, staged up and real,  to an extent that it became increasingly difficult for our brains to process  all these images within a short space of time. Processing this dilu8ge of images became4e essential for our mental health as we needed  to inform ourselves and make sense of the barbarism, mayhem, wanton looting and destruction of property and infrastructure  as unrest engulfed the country.

If anything, these events have confirmed the importance of image making and how important that process of creation is in our lives. We were able to make sense of our reality of social instability and vulnerability of our democracy  and our human frailty by piecing together the story of this destruction  and barbarism mainly through viewing of these images  as active spectators. In other words, we were both luck and unfortunate at the same time that we were part of this lived experience. Lucky that we were active viewers of this destruction, and we will therefore one day be able to tell this terrible story of a week of madness that we witnessed to another generation, instead of being told by others. We were also unfortunate in that we were subjected to these distuirbi9ng images that made us fe4el vulnerable, uncertain and doubt our future in a free and democratic country that is secure4 for us and our children.  Through viewing these images our collective confidence in a free, secure and peaceful South Africa was rattled.

This brings me to the point of the role of photography in society and how important image making and interpretation and contextualizing of images are. For example we were luck to witness the ve4nts in our lives and we pretty much understand the underlying issues at the back of the events that unfolded. But generations  that will come after ours might not have the same clarity about  what happened using other media, such as history books and film as these are pretty much open to manipulation  by those they have the privilege to tell this tragic story.

Luckily these images that were made by many among us, will be resilient enough to tell the proper story of what happened, through exhibitions, photography books and conceptual photographic installations. After all, a picture does not lie. In other words, the pictures that are created today are the true story tellers of history tomorrow, and simply put, that is how powerful photography is, as a  medium of story-telling. When everything is done, it is the images that will remain, reminding us of this unfortunate episode in the history of democratic South Africa. It is a;lso for the same reason that  viewers at home have witnessed the harassment and the attack on the media by some of those recorded or photographed looting and destroying property.

And quite curiously viewers were also exposed to images of those brazenly looting and destroying property and quite excited to be photographed or recording in the act as If it is some heroic act they are performing, without the understanding that they will be recorded permanently in history doing whatever they were captured on camera doing.

Today we pretty much rely on images made years ago to understand our history, contextualize our present and hopefully craft a better future for our off-springs.

For its winter auction Aspire Art Auctions in partnership with the Photography Legacy Project (PLP)  is presenting  The African Photography Auction 2021., billed  “the largest collection of African photography ever to come to auction!”

 Taking place online from 20 – 27 July 2021, the sale showcases the work of 68 photographers from 14 African countries, covering a diversity of subject matter ranging from landscapes to the interiors, gender-based issues to surfing culture and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Championing the photographers who continue to practice their craft and flourish despite extreme challenges, the extraordinary quality and relevance of the artworks comprising this auction support Aspire’s vision and ongoing mission of broadening the market for African art, increasing global appreciation, and, by extension, value, for the incredible artistic produce that emanates from this continent.

And alongside this auction the organizers have brought together a powerful panel of experts to unpack the issues dealt within this body of work that will be on auction.

The discussion titled The African LENS-scape: Photography for Collectors, which will tyake place on  22 JULY 2021 AT 7PM(South African Standard Time GMT) the panel comprises, N’Goné Fall, Lekgetho Makola, Gordon Massie and Mfundi Vundla. This panel is made up of individuals who are relevant in African art pohotographjy and therefore the discussion promises to be engaging and intellectually stimulating.

N’Goné Fall
A Senegalese independent curator and a consultant in cultural policies. She has been the editorial director of the Paris-based contemporary African art magazine Revue Noire from 1994 to 2001. She is the editor of AnAnthology of African Art: The Twentieth Century (Revue Noire / DAP 2002); Anthology of African and Indian Ocean Photography: a century of African photographers (Revue Noire 1998). Fall curated exhibitions in Africa, Europe and the USA. She is the author of strategic plans, orientation programs and evaluation reports for national and international cultural institutions and art foundations. Fall has been an associate professor at the Senghor University in Alexandria, Egypt; visiting professor at the Michaelis School of Arts in Cape Town, South Africa and at the Abdou Moumouni University of Niamey in Niger. N’Goné Fall has been appointed by the French President Emmanuel Macron General Commissioner of the Africa2020 Season, a series of events on culture, sciences and entrepreneurship, all over France from December 2020 to September 2021.

Gordon Massie

 Scottish documentary photographer and collector based in the UK. Gordon has spent a long time learning to understand the common thread in his photographs and what drives his passion for photography. An experienced Managing Director with a demonstrated history of working in the financial services industry, he spear-headed the innovative ArtInsure underwriting platform. A strong business development professional with a Masters in Art History, Gordon is one of the early visionaries who identified and appreciated photography as a form of art collecting, before it was broadly regarded.

Mfundi Vundla

The founder and chair of the television production company Morula Pictures. He is the creator of the prominent television series Generations and Generations the Legacy. Mfundi studied a BA in Politics, Philosophy and English at Fort Hare University and was expelled for involving himself in politics as a member of the ANC. He later completed his degree in English at University of Massachusetts in 1972 after which he graduated with a masters degree in education from Boston University. He returned to South Africa in 1992 and created Generations for SABC 1. In the early 2000s he created Back Stage for e.TV. He also served as the Executive Producer of the movie titled In My Country, in which Juliette Binoche and Samuel L. Jackson star. He is the executive producer of Magic Cellar, an award-winning children’s animated TV series at SABC, a show which has scooped more than 29 international accolades.

Lekgetho Makola 

Former Head of the Market Photo Workshop, Legketho Makola is Chiewf Executive Officer of The Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria (Javett-UP). He studied fine arts at the Durban Institute of Technology and completed an MFA degree at Howard University in Washington, DC. In 2012 he co-founded Kali TV, an online media platform reporting news on diaspora communities in the USA. Lekgetho was a founding member of Parallel Film Collective Washington DC in 2012 and Brand New Africa Foundation in 2016. He was the first African in over 60 years to chair the World Press Photo Awards General Jury in 2020 and served on the Art Bank of South Africa Acquisition Committee in 2018 and 2019.

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