Pieter Hugo


Exhibition schedule: National Arts Festival, Grahamstown (28 June - 7 July 2007); Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Port Elizabeth (2 August - 23 September 2007); Durban Art Gallery (21 November 2007 - 13 January 2008); Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein (12 February - 5 March 2008); Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town (22 March - 4 May 2008); Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg (27 May - 5 July 2008).

Musina is the northern-most town in South Africa. It lies on the Limpopo River on the border of Zimbabwe. The town was formerly known as Messina, and in 2002 its name was changed to correct a colonial misspelling of the name of the Musina people who previously lived in the region.

Located in the heart of the bushveld with its hunting farms and diamond mine, on the major trucking route north, it attracts a conglomeration of disparate peoples. They are drawn to this town by the opportunities it offers, be it working in the mines or on the farms, policing the porous border, smuggling contraband and alien immigrants, or prostitution.

In his photographs of individuals, families, interiors, landscapes and incidental details, Hugo reflects on the wounds and scars of race, class and nationality that persist here, on the border of Zimbabwe, a country in the process of self-destructing. The circumstances of Musina can also be seen as broadly reflective of any community that is confronted by transition.

Hugo's interest lies in documentary photography - in finding new ways of interpreting the world we live in and its complexities. "It enables me to engage with things that interest me and provides me with a means to explore it." His concern is with the peripheral in society, particularly in Africa, and with negotiating contexts where the cultural nuances of our time are amplified.

Early in Hugo's photographic career he realised that he often found himself being critically scrutinized by the subject he was photographing. It was then that he decided to switch to a larger and more cumbersome format of photography, one that would require negotiating consent and dialogue with the person being photographed - a more sedate and contemplative approach. The process of obtaining permission from an individual/s before photographing them is one of the most important aspects of what he does. His approach is forthright and direct, as he believes that this mutual acknowledgment between subject and photographer is part of what gives the images a commanding presence.

Click here to read the transcript of a conversation between Pieter Hugo and Joanna Lehan (published in Messina/Musina, Punctum Editions).

1. Discarded tomatoes and chillies in the veld

2. Postbox, Extension 4

3. Rest area on the road to Tshipise

4.On the highway outside Musina

5. Gates at the town recreation area

6. Kelly and Zanele Nggaba with their children Bongani and Mbali

7. Members of the Christian Motorcycle Association Musina: Lorraine and Alan Esterhuyse and Brian and Adelai du Preez with their son Joshua and their dog Candy

8. Martie and Morkel Smith, their son Stephen and his fiancť Illze Venter with their dog Snooze

9. Graveyard

10. In Tyrone Brand's bedroom

11. Graveyard and the townís sewerage pipe

12. At the Goeie Rust Retirement Village

13. Gezina and Hendrik Jacobus Venter and their children Pieter and Intelashia with their dog Snowy and rabbit Peanut

14. School friends in the Viljoen family's living room: Barend van den Berg, Werner Vos, Bartie Kotze, Armand Viljoen, Deon Viljoen

15. At the abandoned Campbell copper mine

16. Kudu and springbok skulls at the taxidermist

18. Drawing by Jannie Cloete

19. A hunting trophy fashioned to resemble Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe

20. On the window of an undertakerís vehicle

21. Charles Mokwena, a member of the Zionist Christian Church, in his bedroom

22. Makhado Funeral Undertakers and Tombstones

23. Solomon Kholopha of St Martinís Undertakers

24. Corporal Dlamini and Corporal Ziqubu of 5SAI Battalion patrolling the border next to the Limpopo River

25. A painting commissioned by the Musina Municipality to promote wildlife tourism

26. Thomas 'China' Seleka, who lost his hand working in a butchery, in his bedroom

27. Thina Lucy Manebaneba with her son Samuel Mabolabola and her brother Enos Manebaneba in their living room after church

28. Gustaf, Maureen, Koos and Marco Louw in their home

29. Entrance to the showgrounds

30. Lovemore Kufainyore and Taimon Crukunu, who cross the border from Zimbabwe once a month to beg for money in South Africa

31. Betty Sambu and Patrick Munyai of Zack Jack Security in her bedroom at an abandoned military base

32. Happiness Nguluvhe in her school hostel bedroom

33. Peter Kotze, head boy of Eric Louw High School, and his dog Bambi

34. Maria, Tino, Walter, Tapiwa and Tembi Gwanzura with their dog Toffee

35. Holy Communion at the Uniting Reformed Church

36. General dealer, Tshipise

37. Liz and Neil Selby with some of their cats

38. The veld outside town

39. William Phosiwa with his mother Leah Phosiwa in his bedroom

40. Jan, Martie, Kayala, Florence and Basil Meyer in their home

41. Rose Brandís doll collection

42. Pieter and Maryna Vermeulen with Timana Phosiwa

43. Baobab and boxes in the veld

44. Cardboard bed in an abandoned building

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© 2006 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.