David Goldblatt
Some Afrikaners Revisited

24 October - 25 November 2006

Michael Stevenson is pleased to present David Goldblatt's Some Afrikaners Revisited, an expanded view of a body of work first published in 1975 as Some Afrikaners Photographed.

Between 1961 and 1968, Goldblatt photographed Afrikaners initially around small-holdings near Randfontein, next in the Marico Bushveld and then more generally. Some of the black and white photographs were reproduced in specialist magazines, but it took Goldblatt until 1975 to find a publisher for the book that he envisaged - today a much-sought-after collector's item.

The exhibition and the new book contain all but one of the photographs reproduced in the 1975 book (some that were previously cropped are now shown in their entirety), as well as 20 additional photographs taken at the same time. The book, published by Umuzi, will be available early in 2007.

Goldblatt has been critically exploring South African society through his photographs for more than half a century, and has received international recognition for his work. He was the first South African to be given a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1998. His retrospective, David Goldblatt: Fifty-one years, toured galleries and museums in New York, Barcelona, Rotterdam, Lisbon, Oxford, Brussels, Munich and Johannesburg between 2001 and 2005. In July this year his work was the subject of a retrospective at the Rencontres festival in Arles, France. Most recently he won the 2006 Hasselblad Award in recognition of his lifelong achievements. This award will be presented in GŲteborg, Sweden, on 25 November 2006.

Some Afrikaners Photographed, 1975
Some Afrikaners Revisited, 2006

Some notes on how they came to be

By David Goldblatt
Johannesburg, 2006

I was born and grew up in Randfontein, a gold-mining town 40 kilometres west of Johannesburg. My family were middle-class Jewish people and my earliest experiences of social interaction were partly in the Jewish community, partly in the wider town.

I can't say exactly how old I was, but it was at an early age that I first experienced anti-Semitism. I found it incomprehensible. Why would people - Afrikaans-speaking boys my own age - feel a need to express anger or disgust towards me, a slightly-built kid who had done nothing to them?

At school, Afrikaans was a compulsory subject that I disliked intensely; it was a harsh language, like the people who spoke it. It is ironic that my mother sent me to Krugersdorp High only after I experienced serious incidents of anti-Semitism and even sadism, first at Pretoria Boys High and then at Marist Brothers in Johannesburg, both English-medium schools. I was happy at Krugersdorp High, also an English-medium school. I finished high school in 1948, the same year the National Party came into power. I remember on their election poster outside my father's shop in the main street of Randfontein a caricatured Hoggenheimer, the archetypal Jewish capitalist. Besides the swart gevaar, Jewish capitalists were the ultimate evil in the eyes of the party

Lily and I married in 1955 and we agreed that South Africa was no place to bring up children. The ideology and apparatus of apartheid and the overwhelming power of the state to crush opposition became ever more present in our lives; the National Party appeared invincible and it seemed ever less likely that we could put down roots here. All the time there was this sense of impermanence, the need to think actively of getting out of South Africa. I had flirted briefly with Zionism but I was never a very convinced Zionist. My father regarded nationalism, including Zionism, as an evil and although he never attempted to convince me of his views, his logic, here, was inescapable.

In my father's shop, serving Afrikaners, I found, almost in spite of myself, that I liked many of them and, to my surprise, that I was beginning to enjoy the language. There was a warm straightforwardness and an earthiness in many of these people that was richly and idiomatically expressed in their speech. And, although I have never advanced beyond being able to speak a sort of kombuistaal, I delighted in our conversations. Yet, withal, I was very aware that not only were most of these people Nationalists, strong supporters of the Party and its policies, but that many were racist in their very blood. Although anti-Semitism was now seldom overt, they made no secret of their attitude to blacks, who at best were children in need of guidance and correction, at worst sub-human. I was much troubled by the contradictory feelings of liking, revulsion and fear that these Afrikaner encounters aroused in me and felt the need somehow to come closer to these lives and to probe their meaning for me. I wanted to do this with the camera.

I had begun to use the camera long before this in a socially conscious way. And so I began to explore working-class Afrikaner life in our district. I drove out to the kleinhoewes around the town. I would stop and ask people if I might do some portraits of them or spend time with them while they went about whatever they were doing. In this way I became intimate with some of the qualities of everyday Afrikaner life in these places, and with some of its deeply embedded contradictions.

An old man sits for me. A black child comes and stands next to him, looking at me with curiosity. The man turns and says to the child, 'Ja, wat maak jy hier, jou swart vuilgoed?' (Yes, what are you doing here, you black rubbish?), the insult meant and yet said with affection. How is this possible? I don't know. But the contradiction was eloquent of much that I found in the relationship between rural and working-class Afrikaners and blacks: an often comfortable, affectionate, even physical intimacy seldom seen in the 'liberal' circles in which I moved, and yet, simultaneously, a deep contempt and fear of blacks.

It was in the late 1950s that I first read Herman Charles Bosman's Mafeking Road. Besides giving me much delight, the stories strongly influenced my photography. Unaffected in language, economic of means, deceptively simple in plot, they conveyed in near poetry, with humour, irony and profound understanding, what must surely have been the truth and particularity of Boer life in the Marico Bushveld in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Presumptuously, I aspired somehow to bring similar qualities to my photographs.

Around 1965 I began to think of an extended photographic essay on Afrikaners, something of broader scope than my explorations thus far which, although far beyond my experience, might conceivably become a book. I made contact with people in the arts, professions, business and politics and did some photography there. Whenever I could, I went into the country, seeking out and photographing Afrikaners. At the end of 1966, the beginning of 1967, I went into the Karoo and Western Cape, and made a similar journey the next year, accompanied by Lily. We had a pup tent, sleeping bags and a primus stove, and camped, very often, by the side of the road.

Travelling through vast, sparsely populated parts of the country with my camera became a major part of my life at that time. I think that our landscape is an essential ingredient in any attempt at understanding not just the Afrikaner but all of us here. We have shaped the land and the land has shaped us. Often the land was unforgivingly harsh. Yet, the harsher the landscape the stronger the Afrikaners' sense of belonging seemed to be. Many of the people whom I met in the course of those trips had a rootedness in the land of which I was very envious. Envious in the sense that I couldn't claim 300 years of ancestry in this country. Yet, increasingly, I felt viscerally bonded to it.

By 1968 I had assembled quite a substantial body of work. After a decade of deliberations with Sam Haskins and Barney Simon, and many rejections, one thousand copies were finally printed with the support of Murray Crawford in 1975. It didn't sell. It was remaindered for R2.50.

Then, in 2004, I visited the isolated valley of Gamkaskloof, also known as Die Hel, again, and when I got home, I looked again at the work I had done there in the 1960s. There was quite a lot that I hadn't put into the 1975 book and it seemed sufficiently interesting to merit publication now, particularly since that group of highly independent small farmers had completely disappeared. This led me to think not simply of a second edition but of an expanded book, bringing into it various other photographs from my work of that time

In the years of working on what became the 1975 book I had realised that I was not concerned to present an overview or cross-section of Afrikaner life. Nor was I engaged in some sort of photographic popularisation of 'The Afrikaners'. I wanted a tightly focussed essay without fat. So in the final version I included very little of my photography on Afrikaner professional, business and 'cultural' life. People in those circles had acquired values that were not then my primary interest, as well as a self-protective gloss that diluted or obscured the core of my concerns: life and values among mainly working and farming people.

The re-issued book (and exhibition) is more expansive, less concentrated, than the first. I have omitted one photograph from the original collection and added 21 others taken in the same period. This exhibition is the first occasion that these photographs have been seen in their entirety, about forty years after they were taken. I now no longer feel the anger, fear and disgust that I had then felt at what was being done to South Africa.

The farm Quaggasfontein in the Great Karoo on a summer afternoon, near Graaff-Reinet, 1966.

On Monumentkop at dawn: preparing for the parades and speeches of the Republic Day festival, Pretoria, 1966

Karoo-veld between Richmond and De Aar, 1967.

Martli Malherbe of the farm Roodewal, Nelspruit, 1971.

The son of an ostrich farmer waits with a labourer for the day's work to begin, near Oudtshoorn, 1967.

In Martjie Marais's kitchen in Gamkaskloof, 1967.

Piet Swanepoel clears ground for planting on his farm in Gamkaskloof, 1966.

The 'Non-Whites' bus to Prince Albert on the Swartberg pass, Swartberg mountains, 1966.

Frik Loubser, farmer, shopkeeper and postmaster in the Marico Bushveld, 1964.

An abandoned farmhouse and encroaching haak-en-steek, Marico Bushveld, 1964

Ouma Hester Mostert, who came from Calitzdorp to Gamkaskloof as a 17-year-old bride, 1968.

The bride. The wedding took place on her father's farm, near Barkly East, 1966.

J.G. Loots of the farm Quaggasfontein where his family had farmed for more than 200 years, Graaff-Reinet, 1966.

Wedding on a farm in the Barkly East district, 1966.

Johannes van der Linde, farmer and major in the local army reserve, with his head labourer 'Ou Sam', near Bloemfontein, 1965.

A farmer in Krisjan Geel's store at Zwingli in the Marico Bushveld, 1964.

A protea grower and his family on their smallholding near Groot Drakenstein, 1965.

Koot and Hettie Cordier and their children going to visit their next-door neighbours, the Snymans, Gamkaskloof, 1966.

After her bath and before bed, a child plays on the stoep with the youngster who helped look after her, Barkly East, 1966

Watching home movies, Northcliff, Johannesburg, 1968

Shopping on 14th Street, Pageview, Johannesburg, 1965.

Afternoon tea being served to two men repairing a car on a pavement in Fairview, Johannesburg, 1965.

Dancing at a wedding, near Barkly East, 1966.

Ella, daughter of Freek and Martjie Marais, in the children's bedroom, Gamkaskloof, 1967

Bringing in the harvest, Koksoord Plots, 1962.

Making a coffin for the body of a neighbour's servant whose family could not afford to buy one, Bootha Plots, Randfontein, 1962.

The farmer's son with his nursemaid, on the farm Heimweeberg, near Nietverdiend in the Marico Bushveld, 1964.

Tant Nellie Haasbroek, of the farm Heimweeberg in the Marico Bushveld, 1964.

In a farmhouse kitchen, Eastern Cape,1966.

A country schoolteacher with his children, near Dordrecht, 1966.

A clerk and his family in front of their house in Graaff-Reinet, 1966.

Songs on Christmas Day in the garden of a plot at Koksoord, 1962.

Two men building a dam on the farm Drogedal or DroŽdal in the Marico Bushveld, 1964.

Mrs L.C. Rall, widow and farmer, in her cattle kraal, Marico Bushveld, 1964.

Farmers at a cattle auction, Vryburg, 1965.

4 p.m. at a traffic light in Pretoria (Tshwane). This, the administrative capital of the country, was a city of Afrikaner civil servants, 1967.

The voorkamer of a widow in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, 1969.

The ladies of the office staff of the Mine Workers' Union, Johannesburg, 1965.

The commando of National Party supporters that escorted the late Dr Hendrik Verwoerd to the party's 50th anniversary celebrations, De Wildt, 1964.

Dr Verwoerd and the Lantern Restaurant in the voorkamer of Lewies and Katrina Nel, Gamkaskloof, 1967.

Volkspelers wait to perform traditional dances on the Day of the Covenant, in celebration of the Boers' victory over the Zulus, AasvoŽlkop, Johannesburg, 1965.

Three-legged medley race in the seventh year of drought, near Nietverdiend, Marico Bushveld1965.

The farmer's wife, near Fochville, 1965.

Encamped at the boeresport, Marico Bushveld, 1966.

Senior members of the National Party listen to speeches at the party's 50th anniversary celebrations, De Wildt, 1964.

In the forenoon, Aberdeen, in the Great Karoo, 1966.

Listening to John Vorster, then Minister of Justice, at a National Party stryddag in the town hall, Nigel, the constituency he represented in Parliament.

Koot Vorster, actuarius (registrar) of the Cape Synod of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk and brother of John Vorster, at the synod of the Church, Cape Town, 1965

Uys, Francois and Bokkie Krige with their mother Sannie Krige, Onrus, 1965.

Andries Pretorius Street, 2 p.m. Aberdeen, 1966.

Andries Pretorius Street, 6 a.m. Aberdeen, 1967.

A young boy swimming, Aberdeen, 1966.

Policeman in a squad car on Church Square, Pretoria, 1967.

At Christmas time in Koot and Hettie Cordier's voorkamer, Gamkaskloof, 1967.

The bride and her parents-in-law, near Barkly East, 1966.

A pensioner with his wife and a portrait of her first husband, Wheatlands Plots, near Randfontein, 1962.

Shiftboss with 'his piccanin', underground at Randfontein Estates Gold Mine, Randfontein, 1965.

A grave in the cemetery shared by the Dutch Reformed Churches, Pretoria, 1967.

A pensioner with the child of a servant, Wheatlands Plots, near Randfontein, 1962.

Dominee P.S.Z. Coetzee, Moderator of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk in the Orange Free State, 1965.

Child with a replica of a Zulu hut at the Voortrekker Monument, on the Day of the Covenant, Pretoria, 1963.

Flip du Toit on the stoep of his farm workshop at Abjaterskop, Marico Bushveld, 1964.

Kleinbaas with klonkie, Bootha Plots, Randfontein, 1963.

Kleinbaas with klonkie, Bootha Plots, Randfontein, 1963.

A shop that gave no credit, Koksoord, Randfontein, 1962.

A young family in Church Square, Pretoria, 1967.

On the beach, Keurboomstrand, 1968.

Officers of the Voortrekker youth movement, at the Republic Day festival, Pretoria, 1965.

Swimming in the mineral baths, Aliwal North, 1966.

Brothers, Stappies and Koot Cordier, challenge me to a shooting competition, Gamkaskloof, 1967.

Saturday afternoon rugby: South African Police versus Iscor (Iron and Steel Corporation) at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 1967

At Geel, near Nietverdiend, Marico Bushveld, 1964.

At a wedding, Pretoria, 1967.

Steven le Roux, who under the name of Etienne Leroux, wrote highly-acclaimed Afrikaans novels, one of which was banned, Koffiefontein, 1965.

Church of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk, Prince Albert, 1968.

David Katz and his brother, Calitzdorp, 1968.

On an ostrich farm near Oudtshoorn, 1967

Daan Roux, descendant of an old Cape wine-farming family, with his wife on the stoep of their farmhouse, Franschhoek, 1965.

A house at a former Lutheran mission station, Zoar, 1968.

A woman in her voorkamer, Aberdeen, 1966.

A house on the Bootha Plots under snow, near Randfontein, 1962.

An elder of the Dutch Reformed Church walking home with his family after the Sunday service, George, 1968

Revival meeting held in a tent, Randfontein, 1966.

A Pinkster church, Pretoria, 1967.

An elder of the Dutch Reformed Church walking home with his family after the Sunday service, Carnavon, 1968.

Katrina Nel fetching water from the river, Gamkaskloof, 1966.

Ella and Betty Marais swimming in the dam that their father, Freek Marais, built, Gamkaskloof, 1966.

A plot-holder who shunted trains and dreamt of growing a garden, with no bricks or concrete in it, watered from this dam, Koksoord, Randfontein, 1962.

A railwayman and his family in the backyard of their home in the 'Dubbeldekkers', Bloemfontein, 1965.

Picnic at Hartebeespoort Dam on New Year's Day, 1965.

Picnic at Hartebeespoort Dam on New Year's Day, 1965.

A corner of a plot-holder's voorkamer, near Randfontein, 1962.

Young policeman in a cafť, Pretoria, 1967.

The pensioner's daughter. She worked in a tobacco factory in Johannesburg and had bought her parents this furniture on hire-purchase, 1962.

Koot Cordier at his front door, Gamkaskloof, 1968.

Lewies Nel in his voorkamer, Gamkaskloof, 1966.

Piet Mostert's house, Gamkaskloof, 1968.

Family graveyard on the Nel's farm near Barkly East, 1967.

A plot-holder, his wife and their eldest son at lunch, Wheatlands, near Randfontein, 1962.

A young policeman and his family in their Hillbrow flat, Hillbrow, 1969.

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© 2006 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.