More than twenty years have elapsed since the end of South Africa’s “Border War” but the memory of the conflict remains a festering wound in the national psyche. Although it was South Africa’s longest war, the savagery of the conflict was kept hidden from the public by stringent control of information, particularly images, which were censored to prevent public understanding of the extent of the war in Namibia/Angola between 1966 and 1989.
This new exhibition investigates the memory of the South African “Border War” through the creation of “constructed photographs” based upon specific examples of photographic images from the media coverage of the time. These photographs will be exhibited as a transactive intervention that challenges the growing public discourse around the memory and implications of the war. The exhibition will explore the emotional consequences of the war for the young white conscripts who were sent to fight in a war that was never properly explained or justified to them and which many were never able to talk about subsequently. These are images that will shock and challengethe viewer’s understanding of the intense emotional consequences of the war in the remote northern bush.
At the same time, the project also aims to develop a meditation on the possibilities of “constructed” photography as a complex and mediated art form in South Africa. Documentary realism has dominated South African photography for decades; but these haunting images will demonstrate the extraordinary power of constructed images for exploring the traumatic memory of the distant events that continue to resonate in South African experience.
This exhibition is of interest to anyone concerned with the emotional and social consequences of the “Border War” and to all interested in the expanded possibilities of photography in South African contemporary art.