Pieter Hugo
Messina/Musina

2006

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.