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).
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