ALL THAT IT WAS...ALL THAT IT IS
“Cape Town is a city that remains at war with itself. It is a war that exists through the silences and in the cracks that allow complete histories and realities to slip through…..it is a city that lives the violence and genocide that has been its history…a city that continues to be shredded by the complexities of division and violence. The violence of the city, of its extremes of wealth and poverty and the irreconcilable realities that exist inside of these extremes, mark everyone each day in ways that are not always clear, conscious or visible.”
Yazir Henri & Heidi Grunebaum. Direct Action Centre for Peace and Memory
Several years have passed now since these images were taken, since that time where my path would cross with a man whose name I would never learn in that world by the sea that some would call the Mother City.
One morning in Cape Town, just before Christmas, a man thirty-six years into his life would die, and as is the want of the strange and arbitrary collisions of our world; a stranger from England would photograph his hand laid out upon a red blanket a few hours after his death.
In the passing months since this time, I’ve often thought about this moment, about the stillness and silence of the room, and of the muted laughter outside in the sun beyond the slightly open door of the morgue. Of course, these images are indeed, as André Bazin cites, the death masks of a time that has gone forever; yet the feelings that I experienced as I wandered for two months through the city of Cape Town still remain and perhaps will never leave me.
Beyond the underlining premise of observing the city and the varied spaces within, I was interested too in attempting to examine the psychology of those who lived with the fraught realities of the city by constructing images that imbued an air of introspection and anxiety.
What is clear is that in 2021, nearly 70% of South Africans were city dwellers. In this sense, for the first time, the city will be the meeting place for the majority of its citizens and therefore the theatre where the nation’s anxieties will be enacted and lived.
Through my images, I do not pretend to give answers, but instead, I hope to open up a window of discussion that attempts to examine the ways in which people are inevitably and yet unconsciously marked by the past, by the fragmented and transitory spaces of the present and finally by the irreconcilable realities of the future.
This work was exhibited as solo shows at New Walsall Art Gallery, The Focal Point Gallery and at Unit 2 Gallery, London. It was funded by Arts Council England and Eight images from this series were purchased for the NAGW permanent collection.