The Rise and Fall of Apartheid

For those who have read my previous reviews/posts, it’s quite apparent that I appreciate chronology in any work. It adds a realistic storyline that keeps the piece coherent as well as interesting. It’s easier to follow a story than a collage and more meaningful than a single work or piece of art. International Center of Photography’s Rise and Fall of Apartheid exhibit used a chronological technique to tell the story of Apartheid in South Africa and used the chronology to manipulate the audience’s emotions.

When I entered the photography exhibit, I picked up on a few things instantly. First was the order in which the works were set up. Unlike museums or art galleries, the International Center of Photography wanted the audience to start and end in specific destinations, making the entrance to the actual exhibit very small. Other galleries will keep the layout open so that people have agency and the freedom to walk around on their own desire. Here, the work was essentially dictating the method of interpreting the work, which in my opinion made the experience that much better.

To continue, the entrance leads to the first section of a series of works. Here is where the viewer is supposed to gather background information and an idea of what life was like before the conflict surfaced. There is a poster hanging on the first wall with a list of significant dates and what major events occurred at the time. A old movie plays constantly on a small screen, incorrectly depicting the natives of South Africa as animals and cruelly poking fun at them. The section showed the foundation of the tension between two groups, as well as how their lives were separately. The natives lived peacefully, with pride in their background, while the whites preferred to stay apart from the blacks.

The work moves on to show an era of mixture and prosperity. We see minor occurrences of the two races coming together and working together. This all takes place during a period of economic progression in South Africa, a plausible reason as to why the people didn’t object as much to the races mixing. As the work makes a turn, we see the emergence of the arts and the value of creative thinking in South African society. What came across as striking was the presence of numerous native figures in these new arts.

However, the work also created an abrupt entrance into the section covering the prevalence of violence in society. The photographs often involve a strong inclusion of blood and gore to evoke a sense of empathy from the eyes of the audience. They want those looking at the photographs to understand the pain the natives were going through during Apartheid.

The second, lower level took a very different approach as compared to the first. I found that because it served numerous purposes, it let go of the concept of chronology and allowed people to walk freely.

Overall, the exhibit at the International Center of Photography was a great experience which really helped me understand and experience the events that surrounded Apartheid in South Africa.

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The Apartheid Told in Pictures

The International Center of Photography wasn’t the first place we experienced the Apartheid, which is a time of inequality, cruelty, and violence in South Africa. Photographers who were around at the time, such as Peter Magubane, Leon Levson, Kevin Carter, and Ken Oosterbroek put themselves at risk and in the end, their work, including videos, photos, and audios, all filled the space in the exhibit. Both floors of the museum showed the transition from the early 20th century to modern day culture and politics in South Africa.

After the ticket check, the first thing I noticed was the small entrance and the way the hallway led into another. I was told that the museum was laid out in a particular way to lead the audience in a specific path that would show them the beginning of Apartheid and have them follow the events of the tragedy right up to the end. I thought that this was a great technique to keep the viewers understand exactly what was happening, as opposed to having displays and photos in different or random places, which could be confusing. Instead, having the layout of a timeline really helps tell the story of Apartheid and can even put the audience right back into that specific period and give them the perspective of what it was like back then.

Moving past the two videos, there is a countless number of pictures, all arranged in chronological order and themes. One of the themes that caught my attention was the time of new culture and prosperity. Jazz is one of the new cultures that were displayed; there were videos and photos of people dancing and singing to the music. The victims of the Apartheid used this as a way to still have hope for better times to come.

Of course, the Apartheid was not all happy times. There was a section of the exhibit showing the violence during that period such as dead bodies and protests. Protesters were often violently taken care of, including being beaten and attacked, simply for voicing their opinions. These were shown through videos, which made the situation very surreal and gave me a better understanding of what kind of violence existed and the pains that the victims were going through during that time.

The media that were displayed did a good job at portraying exactly what it was like during the Apartheid. However, the little captions that went along with these pictures or videos were hard to understand because they weren’t directly linked to each other. It takes some careful evaluation to be able to see which description goes with what. Otherwise, if they were placed in a way that would be more clear to the audience, it would have been even better.

The exhibit as a whole was very captivating and gave the audience a clear vision of what the Apartheid was like. The use of not only photographs but also videos and clips puts them in the shoes of the victims. As the audience follows the exhibit in the chronological pathway, it can be said that they are reliving in the experiences of the victims of Apartheid.

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Apartheid Brought Back To Life.

Apartheid was brought back to life in the form of the ICP exhibit, Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life. But the big question was if it ever died.

Apartheid is the legislated racial segregation of blacks. It used to be specifically referring to the actions taken in South Africa but it can be argued that this behavior is not simply limited to the region of South Africa.

Berenice Abbot would be happy with this exhibit. Each and every picture is a slap in the face. Practically shoving painful and desperate reality down your throat. There is a message in each picture, another part of the exhibit that she would be happy with. What is this message? Well, clearly a theme is that Apartheid is absolutely abominable and should be abolished.

However the concept of Apartheid was so strong that in everything from movies to simple newspapers. It, unfortunately, was becoming the essence of society at that point in history. Something powerful enough to be injected into all aspects of society is not easily forgotten, though. Even after the films stopped being produced and the racist newspapers stopped being printed, there was still a presence of apartheid. At first it was de jure apartheid. Laws were passed segregating the dark skinned from the white skinned. Just as the Jim Crow laws here in America were legally binding measures taken by whites.

After many of the laws were repealed, it became de facto apartheid. A photo by Peter Magubane showed the ‘notorious green car: police drove around Soweto taking potshots at innocent passerby. Imagine that, being shot by your own police. The people who are put there to protect you. Another photo shows Antoinette Sithole and Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying Hector Pieterson at a peaceful student demonstration.

By Sam Nzima

He had been shot by the police as well.

Then there is another photo by Peter Magubane which everyone seems to connect with. It is of 5,000+ people at a graveyard after the Sharpeville Massacre. The massacre was because of a peaceful protest. The protestors apparently outnumbered the amount of police present. So they opened fire, killing almost 7o people.

By Peter Magubane

The whole exhibit is powerful and sends a clear message. It did its job well.

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A picture is worth a thousand words

The carefully selected and curated photographs in the exhibit of Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life at the International Center of Photography (ICP) show the remnants and everlasting struggles of apartheid, the segregation in South Africa more than sixty years ago. Curated by Okwui Enwezor and Rory Bester, the exhibition proposes the power of the photography and journalism, and honors the exceptional achievement of South African journalists and photographers.

The exhibition examines the apartheid system and how it affected every aspect of South Africa. Through photographs, films, books, magazines, and newspapers, the exhibit showed how apartheid interfered with all of social aspects, ranging from housing, public amenities, and transportation to education, social events, tourism, religion and businesses. A big part of South African history is documented and on display right here in the center of the Big Apple at ICP.

There were photographs of people living behind gates and barbed wires. It shows how much resemblance there is between that and a prison. Alcan aluminum window frames were also on display in the lower level of the museum to represent the business aspect in South Africa. There plentiful portraits of important figures, such as Nelson Mandela. One particularly famous one is the one with Nelson Mandela dressed in traditional beads and a bed spread, as he was hiding out from the police during his period as the “black pimpernel” in 1961. There were also numerous accounts of protests – crowds of people with the same idea holding up posters and signs expressing their powerful thoughts of justice.

Out of the hundreds of media presented at the museum, two really stood out to me. I apologize ahead of time for the lack of the photographs I am about to describe, because the museum did not allow photos to be taken of the exhibit.

One was a photograph of a police interference with innocent villagers even after such incident. The photograph’s caption was: “After a funeral of a three-year old child shot in the head by a policeman’s rubber bullet, angry mourners clash with police near the family’s home.” It’s troubling to hear about such misery apartheid could bring to an innocent family, and many other families across South Africa as well.

My second photograph was a picture capturing African Americans in a fashion show and having a party. This picture, I thought, not only shows happiness, but strength in the people of South Africa. The strength they held within them throughout the period of apartheid. Without that strength, they would not been able to endure the hardships and put an end to apartheid.

A picture is worth a thousand words.
Imagine 500 pictures. How powerful is that?

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The Rise and Fall of Apartheid Review

A profound and explicit exhibition at the International Center of Photography, Rise and Fall of Apartheid holds a magnifying glass up to the Apartheid, offering a multi-faceted view of South Africa in a span of 60+ years.Not only does it present the confrontational horrors of racial segregation and its tangible effects, but the collection of magazines, books, documentary clips, uncensored video, commercials and many other mediums present the every day life that adds up to form a culture. The photos and media are strung together to form a powerful narrative, classified into segments of a common theme. Two themes, the political and emotional response, and blacks in the media offered a bi-lateral perspective into Apartheid.

One talented photojournalist, Peter Magubane, set the scene for the political and emotional responses to segregation in South Africa, especially in the Soweto Uprising. The uprising was sparked by black students in 1976 in attempt to change the unjust, highly segregated school system.  Magubane’s photographs blur the line between aesthetic and documentary, while effectively conjuring feelings of pathos from viewers. He especially captures the chilling aftermath of the uprising with an image of a black person’s corpse covered by newspapers, with a desolate open palm in the foreground. The newspaper ironically reads “This, I believe, as a South African.” According to the description beside the photograph, dead bodies covered with newspaper filled the streets during the Soweto Riots in 1976. Another image by the same artist, depicting the funeral of Hector Pieterson, who was the first young victim of the Soweto Uprising, poignantly captures this family’s struggle by highlighting body language. Four individuals, side by sidestand behind the casket with raised right fists and bowed heads.

The Treason Trial, beginning in 1956 until 1961 was yet another tumultuous event of Apartheid; 156 people, including Nelson Mandela were arrested in a raid and accused of Treason. Photographs taken by Eli Weinberg and an unidentified photographer lay out a narrative that demonstrates the sociology of power, the strength of the force that results when the people band together to ignite change. Weinberg’s Crowd Near the Drill Hall on the opening day of the Treason Trial illustrates a historic moment by documenting the facial expressions of the subjects, the unity of the signs they are holding up, and how the entire frame is occupied by the crowd. Another powerful Weinberg photograph is featured in the exhibit, which shows a young Nelson Mandela in 1961 clad in traditional beads and a bedspread, hiding from the police. The subject’s expression is one of sincere dedication and nobility; the photographer captures his presence as a leader. Surrounding photographs are arranged chronologically, with a heavy emphasison crowds for this particular event. A photograph by an unnamed photographer shows an anxious, somber crowd behind a foreground of three white policemen. The crowd, which is mostly black with some whites, seem to be staring in unison in the same direction, at a distant spot behind the camera.

A German-born South African, Jurgen Schadeberg, takes a particular interest in the Black Sash, an anti-apartheid women’s group. In contrast to images of fiery crowds of the Soweto Uprising and the Treason Trial, adjacent images of the Black Sash appear to be funeral-like. Schadeberg captures grave faces, bowed heads and women holding a candle to their chests. This juxtaposition of images shows the stark differences of how certain crowds conduct protests. The women in his images wear black sashes and stand still in the frame like mannequins, frozen in time, as they passively hold up signs. The photographer makes a point in his photographs that this was a global cause, contributing to the exhibit’s theme of the sociological influence. An interesting choice that was made in curating the exhibit was to showcase the group rather than the individual. A crowd of women of the 29 ANC Women’s League are shown being arrested for breaking a law that prohibited them from entering township.

The exhibit cleverly weaves in an environment of the culture and everyday life that took place, despite the horror of the Apartheid. A long panoply of Drum Magazine covers lie in a glass showcase, a contrasting sight against the chilling images on the opposite end of the room. Drum Magazine is targeted to mainly black readers and contains market news, entertainment, and feature articles. Peter Magubane, who worked for the magazine, says, “Drum was a different home; it did not have apartheid. There was no discrimination in the offices of Drum magazine. It was only when you left Drum and entered the world outside of the main door that you knew you were in apartheid land. But while you were inside Drum magazine, everyone there was a family.” The brightly-colored covers featuring smiling black women seemed to belong to a different place and time period. In the next room, photographs of rebellious women in South Africa’s “jazz age” hung on the walls. The unnamed photographers captured photos of women with bare breasts, surrounded by men. This time period during the Apartheid showed women establishing a presence on the stage: some sang, others danced, and a few engaged in promiscuous acts. While Schadeberg’s images displayed a culture of reserved, noble women, this section of the exhibit portrayed women as objects of pleasure, entertainers.

Newspaper articles, drawings, journal pages, picture books, and other primary sources are on display in the exhibit, giving a 360 degree view of Apartheid. Posters, advertisements and guerilla marketing also make a presence, highlighting the business trends of the time. The International Center of Photography designed a show that exceeds photojournalism; it creates a highly realistic atmosphere that has the ability to bring viewers back to this historical time.

Rise and Fall of Apartheid at the International Center of Photography will be open for viewing until January 6, 2013.

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Apartheid: Gone, but Still Here

When something is outlawed, it does not fully erase the impact that it once had in society.  Many people tried to destroy Apartheid again and again, but the legislation did not come down until the 1990’s.  Even though it has been uprooted from South Africa, the remains of it still exist today.  In the International Center of Photography, better known as ICP, there are a plethora of images that still capture the troubling atmosphere that surrounded Apartheid.  Within ICP, some of the photographs are much more graphic, and consequently moving, than others.  To me, there were three photos that left an impressionable mark on my understanding of Apartheid.

Peter Magubane, a well-known combatant of Apartheid, captures perhaps two of the most frightening images in the exhibit.  The first snapshot was taken during 1960.  It features what seems to be a never-ending line of coffins for all of the African Americans who died during a riot.  On both sides of the caskets are families and friends mourning the deaths of their loved ones.  In the description of the picture, it is said that there were more than 5,000 people at the graveyard that day.  When the South African government learned that Magubane was taking pictures of such tragic events, they did not want these photos published.  Even though there is no immediate violence depicted in this picture, a feeling of heartache can be sensed by the facial expressions of those present at the cemetery.

Never Ending Row of Caskets
Photo Credit: Peter Magubane

After being arrested for his striking photography, Magubane returned in the 1970’s to capture the tragedy of the Soweto Uprising.  During one of these riots, he may have taken the most disturbing snapshot of his long career.  In the photo, there is a man holding a rather young child, placing him into the back seat of a vehicle.  The famous Apartheid photographer captured an image of a child shot dead and now being situated the back of a car.  Anyone who stood in the way of law enforcement was ultimately shot dead.  This shows the severity of the situation because they did not discriminate who they killed, not even small children.

Still, there were others who revealed the true brutality of Apartheid through their photography.  In 1959, Gideon Mendel photographs a struggle between a family and the police in action.  In this image, the policemen possess a variety of weapons, whereas the family has nothing to defend themselves.  This parallels the idea that despite the large numbers of people against Apartheid, they could not make much of an impact because they were basically powerless.  After taking a closer look, I saw that there was a child lying dead on the ground after being shot with a bullet.  Just like Magubane, Mendel vividly captures the ruthlessness towards children in South Africa during the time.

The Rise and Fall of Apartheid exhibit at ICP contains some of the most power photographs of the 20th century.  They show the harsh reality that many African American families experienced during that time.  Magubane and Mendel both gained wide spread recognition with their photographs of the cruelty unleashed on children.  Even though Apartheid no longer legally exists, its impact will live forever through these photographs.

The Rise and Fall of Apartheid Exhibit at ICP
Photo Credit:

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Separate, Yet United

Apartheid was a era of racial segregation that existed in South Africa. With the power of photography, this harsh system came to an end in 1990s.

Walking into the International Center of Photography (ICP), I witnessed for the first time the consequences of Apartheid. Walking down the row of photos was like travelling back and forward through time. In the timeline of photographs, earlier photographers captured the most brutal part of the segregation, whereas newer photographers captured the changing culture that was a result of Apartheid. From public protests to speeches, South Africans openly protested against the cruel laws that the government imposed. This exhibition thoroughly portrays the progress of the movement with a variety of photographs from different owners. Through this variety, ICP offered a wide range of perspectives of the same movement.

One photo that stood out to me was Nanny and Child taken by Peter Magubane in 1950s. What stood out to me the most were words on the chair: Europeans Only. These simple, yet powerful, words on the chair are able to keep one race away from another. In this photo, the African nanny is looking over the white little girl. Automatically placed in a lower social class because of her race, the African nanny is forced to sit on the other side of the bench. The little girl on her face also has a confused expression on her face. This photo portrays how children were trained at a young age to understand the laws of Apartheid. Even though she seems confused, she knows to sit on her designated side. This photo revealed how Apartheid segregated the two races, no matter their age.

However, in another photo, a photographer offered a different perspective. In the photo The Black Sash, an anti-apartheid women’s group, also taken in the 1950s, is a portrayal of unison within segregation. Jurgen Schadeberg’s photo reveals how women from various races assembled to fight this movement. In this image, a large group of both colored and white women stood together in front of the Parliament and government offices holding a burning candle and wearing a black sash. This was a symbol of unity between races—one that the government had fought hard to separate.

By placing Schadeberg’s photo across from Magubane’s, ICP has effectively separated the two impacts that Apartheid had on society during the time. Although both photos were taken around the same time, these photographers offered contrasting views of how Apartheid impacted people. On one level, white children learned about these segregation laws at a young age. On another level, women from different races were able to unite and fight these brutal laws together. The structure of ICP exhibit played a role in separating the two ideas and organizing the photos in a way that revealed this important theme.

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Moving Stillness

Apartheid ended just twenty or so years ago. However, the pictures throughout this time period are extremely powerful, conveying the difficulty, hatred, and struggle experiences by black people. The International Center of Photography (ICP) is currently holding its Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life exhibit. As one walks down the halls, it is noticeable that the exhibit flows chronologically, allowing the viewers to gaze upon policy, attitudinal, and technological changes.  Emotions ranging from violence to depression to jubilation can be seen in any of these photographs. Famous photographers such as Cedric Nunn and Peter Magubane were featured in this masterfully powerful exhibit.

A photograph that stood out and caught a great amount of attention was one by Cedric Nunn. It featured a woman, sitting on a bed, alone. She is facing a wall in a small square room. The description under the photo explains that this mother is mourning the death of her son, who was supposedly a supporter of the UDC (United Democratic Front). The UDC was a powerful anti apartheid organization. This photograph displays the extent to which peoples’ beliefs could lead them to be persecuted. It can be assumed that her son was part of some demonstration that may have turned violent, causing his death. This photograph is extremely effective because it does not show the mother’s face. This shows how this violence did not affect specific people, but anyone who was involved. Then of course, the economic conditions can be determined, as the house looks plain and simple, with nothing elegant. Nunn displays the truth of sadness in this photograph, a very powerful message in this exhibit.

Another powerful image in this exhibit was one by Peter Magubane. Taken in 1976, this photograph shows a small group of black men holding makeshift weapons in their struggle to fight off an unseen enemy. One man can be seen holding a trash can lid while another is seen clutching some sort of a box. Violence was common as many people struggled to end the unfair practice of apartheid. Through this picture, it can be seen that one of these sides was at a huge disadvantage. The background of this black and white picture is a poor rural village, showing the economic struggles of the blacks. In fact, the photo is captioned “Fighting bullets with stones”. Violence was commonplace during the struggle to end apartheid, and it is often this one sided fighting affair that led to casualties and death.

Peter Magubane had another work in this fantastic exhibition that truly displayed the essence of the fight to end apartheid. This is the photograph of the Sharpeville funeral held in 1960. A crowd of well dressed black men can be seen lined to see what seems like an endless line of caskets. The Sharpeville Massacre was an incident in which 69 black protesters were killed by police after an altercation. Though there were many photographs of funerals in this exhibit, this one directly displays the effect of the anti apartheid struggle. It led to many deaths, but in the end was worth it, as equality was accepted. While each casket looks exactly the same, each one held a human being with a family, friends, and others left behind. Realizing this makes one truly appreciate the magnitude of this struggle, and how much people valued their principles over their very own lives.


While many photographs taken tried to focus on the negatives of the situation, one photgrapher, Cedric Nunn, was able to capture the transition of South Africa. Some of his photgraphs in the exhibit were a part of his “Then and Now” collection, in which he examined the change blacks went through during and after apartheid. In the “Then” portion, many of the photographs are displaying some sort of struggle, whether it be protests, poverty, or death. The one that stands out shows a group of black youth carrying a casket, with one leading and carrying a cross. However, he is also able to capture the positives after apartheid ended. His “Now” collection contains a photograph of a black man walking on a sidewalk in Johannesburg in 2000. There are white people in the background, and the fact that everyone is on the same side of the street, walking and barely noticing each other shows the positives changes that have taken place. While many photographers tried to focus on the “struggle” theme, Cedric Nunn successfully showed the transition in South Africa.

The International Center of Photography has done an excellent job in gathering the most powerful and informational photographs from the apartheid era. The “Rise and Fall of Apartheid” exhibit is something that shows the true struggle for equality that took place in South Africa, while displaying some positive rays of hope, leading to an eventual positive outcome. The curator Okwui Enwezor understood how to best present this delicate yet important issue, treating it with care. This exhibit is a must go for anyone interested in historical events or just good photography.

Credit: Peter Magubane


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Will It Ever Fall?

Images are powerful.

Do you think Apartheid had ended? Well, after this exhibit, you are definitely going to say no. The Rise and Fall of Apartheid exhibit in the International Center of Photography has nearly 500 photographs, documenting the rapid changes within a 60-year period in the country of South Africa. There were many “rises” for sure, but were there any “falls”? I’m not so sure about that.

For my first impression, I have to disagree with most of my classmates. It does not feel like a museum. In my head, a typical museum would have a lot of people, running around trying to figure out which way to go because there are so many paths crossing one another. In ICP, there was only one path. The photos are aligned in chronological order, with several short videos displayed here and there. All you have to do is walk and see. Down the wooden way, the pictures are hanged on a plain yellow wall. It is very simple, which becomes such a contrast compare to the impact on me after looking at the images.

These are not artistic photos. They are real. There are many images about segregation. Well, of course. They must be images of segregation. There are a number of them titled “Bus for non-Europeans only” or “European-only dry cleaner” or have a similar title. The photographers did not try to create a certain technical effect on their works. They are plain, but documentary and memorable. I know this probably sound old to many people, but every time I look at a photo showing the distinctive differences between the living styles of white and black, I am surprised. I saw segregation pictures for the first time when I was five years old in my first grade; the second one was when I was in fourth grade; after I arrive in American, which was right after seventh grade, I only saw more. I know this makes me sound naïve, but how long does it have to be before people can actually live in harmony? Before people can actually look at these pictures and laugh like an old man laughing at his young mistakes? So far, I would say, “Not in my life time.”

The second set of photos that caught my attention is the nude girls set. I stop in front of it, and look at it for a good ten-minute until the security guard suspiciously watches me as if I was about to put the whole set in my pocket. It is totally different from the rest of the exhibit. Most of the pieces there have a kind of serious and determined tone to them. This set has none. It is showing many white guys playing around with the nude girls in a nightclub. After all those images of death and pain, this set becomes an irony. I’ve always wondered whether or not these people have a hard time falling asleep at night. Unfortunately, they do not.

It is impossible to say that these images have not had any impact on us. They are very powerful. Why? Because they are the truth.

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A Journey Through Apartheid

Upon my entrance to the photography exhibit, I quickly realized a certain things. The first had to do with the setup. The order in which the works were set up was interesting and made a lot of sense to me. The International Center of Photography takes an unique approach in the presentation of their photos and by having the audience start and end in specific places. The exhibit was more a brief journey to parallel the longer journey that those faced during apartheid. Whereas other galleries at other institutions keep the floor open so that people have freedom to walk around, at ICP, the work essentially provides a method of interpretation of the work. This was a great plan as it gives the visitor and audience an aim and a goal to reach and ensures that you leave with new understandings whereas the wandering visitor may not leave with much.

The entrance results in the transition to the first section of the exhibit. The viewer is provided with an increasing amount of background information and sets the mood for the journey to begin. It was like a time traveling machine that primed us and gave us knowledge of what life was like before any conflict became apparent. Major events were listed on a poster with dates and provided a timeline of some sort. There was an old movie that constantly played back on a small screen that showed the natives of South Africa as animals with great exaggeration on their primitive and wild ways. This section presented the differences between the two groups and how their lives were. The natives would live happily with peace and pride in their background, while the whites would usually prefer to stay apart from the blacks.

The exhibit continues by moving onto works that show a new era filled with prosperity. We are presented with minimal occurrences in which the two races would come together and work together. The period of economic prosperity in South Africa may be one reason as to why the people did not argue as much to the the mixture of races. We see the emergence of the various arts and  increase in the value of creative thinking in this South African society. What was really surprising to me was the inclusion of many native figures in the new arts.

But this section lead to work that covered the prevalence of violence in their society. The photographs in the section would often involve heavy scenes of blood and gore to bring a sense of empathy from the audience.  The purpose of the exhibit seems to be geared to those looking at the photographs to understand the pain these natives were facing during the time that is Apartheid.

The lower level was very different and had a whole new approach when it is compared to the upper level. It is a great way to end the exhibit because now that you have been filled in and been on the journey, the freedom to explore lies at the end.

The exhibit at the International Center of Photography was a great learning experience which really helped me understand and in some ways experience the hardship that revolved around the Apartheid in South Africa.

Credits to ICP

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The Rise and Fall of Apartheid

The International Center of Photography currently displays a noteworthy collection of apartheid images. The two-floor exhibit contains a multitude of photographs taken from the early 20th century to the modern day, all showing the evolution of culture and politics in South Africa. Stepping into the museum, I came equipped with some knowledge of this man-made abomination and its history. Actually seeing the haunting images, however, opened my eyes to something that was more than a passage in a history book. Only then did it become less of a story and more of a reality.

The exhibit contained numerous photographs that revealed the steaming tension between the native South Africans and the authorities. The battle between blacks and whites found its root in opposing goals, with the first group vehemently fighting for equality and the latter determined to keep the nation segregated. The issue of it all was just that; how could South Africa be a nation if the majority of its citizens were an inferior class? A photograph taken by Sam Nzima in 1976 embodied that idea. Hector Peiterson, a young man, was being loaded into a car. His clothes were tattered, his left foot was without a shoe, and his thin and lifeless limbs were dangling in the hands of a man. The man who carried him was evidently horrified. With mouth wide agape, he seemed to be releasing a cry of desperation. There was no question that he witnesses something catastrophic. He, however, wasn’t the only one to lament over the dead boy. Numerous people behind him reflected his expression. They were hopeless and confused, but ready to fight.

Not all images shared this theme of violence and consequence. The blacks in South Africa witnessed massive cases of injustice and cruelty, but they were steadfast to believe in the possibility of change. There were large groups of peaceful and well-organized protestors amongst the rebels, as Jurgen Schadeberg’s powerful image implies. Taken in 1931, this photograph captured Violet Hashe, a female activist, speaking to a crowd of well-dressed South African citizens. Her hands were outstretched as she addressed her fellow activist. Her passionate body language seemed to echo the liveliness of the South African flag that was waved behind her. The caption provided a few brief comments about the picture, including the name of the main activist and the campaign’s name. There was no insight into what came before this event or if the protestors took a stride towards equality. Those details, however, would be superfluous, as the photograph excelled at capturing the invigorated spirit of the people. Hope was well alive on their faces.

What struck me most about the exhibit was its varied focus. The collection of photographs did not seek to label the 1900s of South Africa as a decade of apartheid, but instead aimed to capture all the aspects of life in that era. The overall message of the exhibit was clear: life is not solely light or dark. Much of the century was filled with distress and unease, but there were certainly beacons of light that guided the oppressed citizens through the tough times.

Drum magazine, a South African publication, aimed to celebrate the native South African culture and “The Black Fifties” despite the political chaos. Labeled as “Africa’s leading magazine”, the colorful magazine cover stared back at me as I looked at it through a glass case. On the cover was the image of a young lady in an elegant blue dress. Her legs crossed in a flirtatious manner as she leaned against pink stairs. Her curly bangs adorned the side of her face and her eyes gave off a sultry expression, as she looked right through the cover. Her aura of confidence and beauty paralleled that of the rising stars during New York’s Harlem Renaissance. Drum magazine was an outlet for black photographers to showcase their work and earn recognition, especially in the field of documenting.

An exhibit worth attending, Rise and Fall of Apartheid was both bone chilling and heartwarming. Uncensored and unaltered, the photographs captured the worst and best times of the dynamic century of apartheid.


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Apartheid: From the photographer’s Point of View

In our IDC class this semester, we have talked a lot about Apartheid. We even saw a play about it. But, we never had the chance to “see” what was going on. That all changed when we visited the Apartheid exhibit at the International Center of Photography (ICP). Out of all the pieces there, only two had a lasting impact on me.


The first to hit me was a photo of the aftermath of the 1976 riots in Soweto taken by Peter Magubane. It was a picture of a dead body. There were many images of the deceased, but this one affected me in a powerful way. In order to cover the dead male someone put a newspaper over him. It just shows how poor the nation was. No one had a blanket to conceal the corpse. Adding insult to injury, if you were to see what was written on the newspaper, it was an op-ed article talking about how long Blacks would fight for freedom in South Africa with the news caption as, “What would you die for?” I don’t know if Mr. Magubane planned on using this irony or if it was just a coincidence.


The second piece wasn’t a photograph. It was a sculpture by Hans Haacke. It was used to criticize Alcan, an aluminum company that still had mines in South Africa. During Apartheid, many companies and corporations pulled their operations out of South Africa in fear of public backlash. Alcan remained and according to Professor Bernstein, they said they promoted the arts in South Africa. So, Mr. Haacke used that idea to make an aluminum piece with the Alcan name on top. It composed of three parts. The outer edges have pictures of opera and a play. The middle shows the dead body of Stephen Biko, an activist. By juxtaposing the three segments, Haacke successfully ridicules Alcan’s dealings with South Africa.


ICP was an interesting experience. It really showed me how photojournalism was different back then. There was no Twitter or Facebook. These brave photographers needed to go to magazines to get their pictures published so that the whole world would know what is going on in their country. These men and women deserve credit because they helped exposed the problem that was going on in their country and this exhibit is a way of appreciating the work they have done.

Hans Haacke creation

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Endless Violence: The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Apartheid

Heading into the International Center of Photography (ICP) felt like entering a regular museum, not one filled with photos documenting the tragedy, bloodshed, cruelty, and violence of the apartheid in South America. The reality of the apartheid felt distant on words but with the graphic photographs, it became very difficult to stay indifferent to the situation. Putting their very lives on the line, the photographers such as Leon Levson, Earnest Cole, Graeme Williams, Kevin Carter, and Greg Marinovich, and many more, achieved that effect with their photographs.

The Rise and Fall of Apartheid Exhibit at the ICP. Photo credits to DLKCOLLECTION at

Of the very first photographs I saw, the one by Leon Levson took struck me the most. In his photo called Sleeping Quarters at Miners’ Hotel, Consolidated Gold Roof Mine, taken at Johannesburg, 1946, I could sense the harsh living conditions of South Africans. The miners sleep on rows of eight beds adjacent to one another with barely any space in between or to move around in their bed. In the picture, it also showed a person eating at a very small round table (the only one in the room). He was dressed very lightly with a plain white shirt and pants. There were shoes in a messed on the floor and a bicycle hanging next to the beds. The others in the room looked very skinny and tired, with grim faces that revealed no signs of enjoyment or satisfaction.

Moving along, photographs themselves seemed to evolve as written words were incorporated along with people. Viewers no longer had to guess what the photographs meant; we might not appreciate it presently because it’s so common in our age, but at the time it was revolutionary for apartheid photographers everywhere. Using written words to convey a message on photographs was clearly endorsed by Earnest Cole. He took photograph of signs from 1958 to 1966 showing just how segregated South Africa was. Some of those signs said, “Separate entrance for non-Europeans and tradesmen’s boys,” “Black woman scrubbing whites-only stairway,” “Segregated bus station” and “Bus for non-Europeans only.” In sum, what Mr. Cole and the photographs were revealing to us literally was an openly bigoted society.

In addition to verbal abuse and racial isolation, there was brutal violence, often resulting in the deaths of Africans. Towards the end of the exhibit in the basement, there was a photograph of Nelson Mandela with his hand raised up in a fist to show victory after his release from Victor Verster Prison in 1990. The photograph was taken by Graeme Williams. That photo of Mandela, however, was juxtaposed with many other photos illustrating the continuation of bloody violence in the same area. One of which was taken by Kevin Carter of a scene in 1994; it was called “Press photographer James Nachtwey takes cover during a street battle between ANC supporters and Zulu miners loyal to the Inkatha Freedom Party. The photograph showed some white camera men and a black woman taking cover from gun fire. One African was holding a submachine gun to shoot against the other party. By placing these photographs in the same area, the organizers for this exhibit effectively convey to the viewers that the conflict (apartheid) still exists even though “victory” has been declared.

Nelson Mandela with Winnie Mandela as he is released from the Victor Vester Prison, 1990. Credits to the photographer, Greame Williams.

The photos were well organized in the exhibit on the ground floor, placing them chronologically in terms of events and groups. The gallery not only included photographs but also videos and news announcements about the relevant event in that specific part of the exhibit. All images and videos had some text next to it to show the photographers (some were labeled unidentified), copyright, type of print, and courtesy message. As we walked in and saw the gallery from the right, then circling around to the left, we could tell that there was an increase in the tension level of apartheid (rise). To reach the end (in name, officially, anyway in 1994) of apartheid, we must travel downstairs to the basement of the exhibit (fall). With this layout, the organizers wonderfully portrayed the rise and fall of apartheid both chronologically and physically (our movements). And although there was a fall or official end to the apartheid in Africa, the violence between different parties carrying views of segregation and integration still persists. Perhaps the organizers might not have intended this, but I certainly felt the message that the violence did not cease as I was walking back up the stairs (rise) to exit the exhibit.

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A Glimpse of the Struggle

Apartheid was a time of terrible inequality in South Africa filled with violence and passion. The ICP exhibit on Apartheid captured that passion and struggle through a variety of different pictures. The photographers of the time such as Peter Magubane and Ken Oosterbroek risked everything and snapped the emotional pictures that filled the halls of the exhibit.

Credits to

When you first walk into the exhibition, it seems like a normal museum. There are plain hallways lined with photos and magazines to look at and not touch. Taking photographs of the pictures was prohibited. But as you walk further down the hall, the story develops chronologically, in a well-organized display of the struggle of Apartheid. The themes in each room are evident and clearly brought out, with helpful descriptions on the walls. The writing adds context and gives the information that the vivid pictures could not provide. The photos surrounding you are graphic, and when you see up-close and personal the terrors that were Apartheid, you empathize with the struggle no matter what race you are.

Some of the pictures like Peter Magubane’s “Sharpeville Funeral” just leave you with a sense of despair and sorrow. The black and white image of a row of coffins, casualties of Apartheid, and all the sad faces just display the emotions people had during the time. It emphasizes the theme of violence, but at the same time shows the determination that the Africans had to gain their liberties. No amount of illegal handcuffing and searching (as seen in many photos of the exhibit) would deter these people, even when they could trust no one. The police, as seen in Magubane’s “The Notorious Green Police Car” would shoot at innocent passersby. But a dangerous and cold environment where even the police couldn’t be trusted would not stop the struggle for equality.

Sharpeville Funeral
Credits to Peter Magubane

Numerous photos depict the dead bodies covered by newspapers and the segregation that plagued the area. In photos of the Soweto Uprising, you can see how people used anything from rocks and garbage can lids to protect themselves from the violence. Graphic images capture the crying faces of people carrying dead bodies through the streets. A main focus of the exhibit was Steve Biko’s funeral. Many pictures show the crowds of people that attended his funeral. He was a hero to them. He stood up for rights but was beaten and tortured to death by police. Black and white images of his body fill a section of a wall on the upper floor, leaving you with the image of his face as you walk down the stairs. There were even some virtual photo albums about the funeral in this section displayed on the available iPads. These iPads had themed albums and added a creative technological touch to the exhibit.

But while documenting the graphic violence of the time period, some photographs also displayed the theme of life going on. Jürgen Schoenberg’s “Township Shuffle” was in the section showing that despite all the violence, people carried on their culture. This was one of many photos that showed dancing, jazz and fashion during the period of Apartheid. There were Drum magazines in cases that showed uplifting and new fashion and models, keeping up hope. Through the struggle, the Africans persevered with the knowledge that life continues and they must go with it – a powerful and uplifting idea in a time of chaos.

Credits to

The exhibit was very well organized, going chronologically and showing the rise and fall of Apartheid. But although the walk-through is chronological, actual rooms had different themes that sometimes did not flow from one to another. It was challenging to follow what the curator wanted me to see. Descriptions on the wall of each time period were very helpful in determining the themes of each room. However, the labels of each photo were hard to follow since it was done as a group, not individually by photo. But the exhibit left me thinking about the graphic images of Apartheid and with the well-crafted theme that throughout the struggle, life goes on.

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The Story of Apartheid in 3 Pictures

On a cold, bitter day our class trekked over to the International Center for Photography to view the “Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life” Upon entering two televisions played looped scenes of both the beginning and end of apartheid. The curators of the exhibit set up different areas for guests to view different stages and categories of the rise and fall of apartheid in South Africa.
There were so many photos and videos on display throughout the entire center, and it was almost impossible to view each one patiently and up close, stopping to think about the scene captured by a lens just a few decades ago. I therefore decided to focus my intention on just a few photographs, glancing over the remaining quickly to gain context and perspective.

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The first photo that really struck me was of black South African women holding signs, “We Stand by Our Leaders”. As a tour guide passed, leading an older couple through the gallery, I heard her assert the importance of signage to the South African anti-apartheid movement. Upon looking around, I knew she was right. Almost every-other photo contained a sign; all statements of defiance and civil disobedience, bringing is back to the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s and the British anti-colonial movement in India led by Gandhi. The power of disobedience is much stronger than violence as illustrated by all three of these movements. In the middle of this black and white photo stood a young boy, who appeared to be around 12 or 13. The only aspect that seemed striking was the color of his skin. He was white surrounded by a sea of black. Who knows how he came to be in the picture? Maybe it was at his own free will, or perhaps a mother or father wanted his/her son to stand for something that was good and right.

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The next photo that popped out for me was a photo of a white South African woman standing next to a sign on which was written, “The Bible Proclaims: Segregate!” As a Christian myself, it pains me to see religion, especially my own religion, as a justification for evil. Religion throughout the centuries has been used to assert dominance over people and mis-used to subjugate people and degrade them. The old woman looks very tired and angry in the picture. Maybe she is frustrated by her own situation. I really like the old statue in the background. The shift from the old traditional way to the new and the resistance to this change is very much evident in this picture.

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Towards the end of the gallery, there was a famous picture of Nelson Mandela along with Winnie Mandela. The two are pictured holding hands with their other hands raised in fists defiantly. This pose has become a symbol for defiance and triumphant in the face of such adversity. Finally, after so many struggles, the nation of South Africa has ended legal apartheid. However, as noted in the exhibit there is still a struggle for real integration, as apartheid cannot be totally wiped away by any one law.

Photos courtesy of

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Critics’ Corner

Writing encourages us to process what we have encountered, to articulate global impressions or break them down into more analytical components. Here in the Critics’ Corner, we respond in writing to events and excursions.

Feel free to express your own point-of-view, but back it up with details — especially visual ones — that support your opinions.

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