States of emergency relived

A photographic exhibition that documents some of the most turbulent times South Africans had to endure during the second half of the ‘80s, has opened at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Bird Street Gallery.

Between States of Emergency, an exhibition by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, shows photographers and protesters in action from 1985 to 1990 while opposing a series of states of emergency in the country.

It was a deeply troubled time in South Africa’s past and the exhibition documents the work of photographers who took a stand against the atrocities of the apartheid regime.

The exhibition is being hosted by the university after it was approached by the Nelson Mandela Foundation. It is also a component of the NMMU’s upcoming re-launch and re-branding initiatives.

Curated by renowned photographer Robin Comley, the exhibition captures South Africa’s political landscape from July 21 1985 to June 7 1990, and the apartheid government’s frenzied and increasingly unsuccessful attempts to quell political dissent.

mages were taken by Alf Khumalo, Rafs Mayet, Trevor Samson and 37 other photographers and journalists, including NMMU’s executive dean of the faculty of business and economic sciences Dr Ismail Lagardien.

During the late ‘80s, South African photographers “truly came of age in laying before the eyes of the world the evidence of this country’s appalling abuses, demonstrating courage and tenacity”, Comley said.

“Lagardien’s photograph of Firoz Cachalia’s arrest at Wits embodies much of what ‘80s South Africa represented: defiance, brutality, courage, duplicity, anger, betrayal, injustice and endurance,” Comley added.

Lagardien stressed how the apartheid years should not be forgotten “if only so we never return to the violence and breakdown that marked the era”.

NMMU senior arts and culture manager Michael Barry said hosting the exhibition was a significant move for the university, which would later this year re-brand itself as the Nelson Mandela University.

“The exhibition assists in establishing a good relationship with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which is an important link to the Mandela name that we are now adopting.

“It forms part of the protracted launch and branding of our university into the next stage of transformation,” he said.

“The significance for our department is that the exhibition is the beginning of the development of its new mandate, which is to develop an institutional culture that reflects our mission statement, namely to be an African university with values similar to those Nelson Mandela espoused.”

  • The exhibition can be viewed from 9.30am to 3pm on weekdays until Friday May 19.

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