Today i went to the NBK gallery in Berlin to see an installation which proved to be a huge disappointment. Fortunately the space is also exhibiting the work of some of the most talented photographers from South Africa.
Mikhael Subotzky‘s panoramic photographs of the inside of the Pollsmoor prison were by far the most moving. They portray overcrowded cells, appalling living conditions and tin constructions. “Despite the fact that prison is a fundamental reality for so many young men in this country, it is easy for us to ignore it … How can we agree to the extensive use of the prison and then turn away from the realities inside them?”, he says. The images below belong to his Vier Hoeke (“Four Corners”) series:
Johnny Fortune climbs out of the industrial washer after taking a bath in the prison laundry. Having spent most of his years in the prison, he dislikes the communal showers
Prisonners perform “Pasvag”. This cleaning tradition dates back to the 17th century slave ships. It involves the singing and chanting of songs which direct the rythm of scrubbing
Two more gems: Santu Mofokeng because of the bitter-sweet irony of city streets invaded by billboards that say “Coca-Cola Makes A Meal” or “Democracy is Forever”; Guy Tillim for his fabulous portraits and images of desolated urban scenery.