Tribute to brave photographers

A lone woman protests as soldiers patrol Soweto in military vehicles days after gthe State of Emergency came into effect July 1985

The Nelson Mandela Foundation photographic exhibition, Between States of Emergency, opens in Port Elizabeth next week to honour the photographers who took a stand against the atrocities of the apartheid regime.

NMMU Executive Dean of Business and Economics Dr Ismail Lagardien will speak at Wednesday’s opening, at 6pm, of Between States of Emergency Photographers in Action 1985 – 1990 at the NMMU Bird Street Art Gallery in Central. The exhibition runs until May 19.

The apartheid regime responded to soaring opposition in the mid-1980s by imposing a series of states of emergency – in effect martial law. The emergency regulations prohibited photographers and journalists from even being present when police acted against protesters and other activists.

Those who dared to expose the daily nationwide brutality by security forces risked being jailed. Many photographers, journalists and activists nevertheless felt duty bound to show the world just how the iron fist of apartheid dealt with opposition and their work contributed to increased international pressure against the South African government and contributed to the ultimate downfall of apartheid.

On July 21 1985 the government declared the second state of emergency in the country’s history, as 25 years earlier the first had been imposed after the Sharpeville Massacre

It was a turbulent time for South Africa and thanks to the work of photographers the Pollsmoor March and countless other events challenging the authorities did not go unnoticed.

Apart from some days of respite between renewals, the state of emergency lasted effectively until June 7 1990, except for KwaZulu-Natal where it was retained for longer.

This exhibition features some starkly brutal images, while others are more reflective and subtle. All denote the spirit of defiance that carried South Africa’s people through those harsh years.

Through the efforts and courage of these photographers, the apartheid regime was denied its wish to shroud South Africa in a blanket of secrecy. Not all the photographers who took risks to tell the story of apartheid are featured on these walls – there are 40 who have work on show – but the ones who are, represent the whole. The opening is at 6pm for 6.30pm. Gallery hours are 9.30am to 3pm on week days.

For further information contact Jonathan van der Walt (041) 504-3293, e-mail:

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