C h r i s   L e d o c h o w s k i
Cape Flats Details

18 June - 12 July 2003
Michael Stevenson Contemporary is proud to present an exhibition and book by Chris Ledochowski titled Cape Flats Details: Art and Life in the Townships of Cape Town.

"Cape Flats" refers to the vast stretch of exposed sandy wetlands that lie north of Table Mountain and which now forms a large part of the metropolitan region of Cape Town. Racked by the harsh south-easter and frequently flooded in winter, the Cape Flats is highly unsuitable for residential purposes. But today it has become home to close on a million people.

The use of the term "details" stands in contrast to the general appearance of the townships as a bleak and colourless environment - an environment, which over time, challenges one to seek and unveil hidden layers. It is in these "details" that Ledochowski found individual and collective expression of creativity and resilience that give positive meaning and definition to peoples' lives.

His works present public and private images of hope that bring together and convey tradition and modernity, stability and change, faith and despair. Against the rigid domination by apartheid, so physically represented in the construction of township living spaces, people created and nurtured a culture that was under their control.

"In the townships, I focused my attention on capturing - through photography - the dignity with which people were surviving and challenging their oppressive living conditions," says Ledochowski. "The energy and soul of this struggle drew inspiration from the growing climate of political defiance. A collective desire for change gave people purpose and direction. I found that even in the midst of this modern political struggle, people still drew primarily on their traditional cultures and religious convictions, using them as outlets for creative expression. This project attempts to capture expressions of that process."

A second set of Cape Flats Details images will run parallel to the Michael Stevenson Contemporary exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Chris Ledochowski has been invited by Francesco Bonami, director of the Venice Biennale to present a selection from this series in the exhibition The Structure of Survival curated by Carlos Basualdo as part of the 50th International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia.

The Structure of Survival will be shown in the main Arsenale venue in Venice and will include the works of a number of contemporary artists from Latin America, Africa, Europe, the United States, India and Turkey.

"The Structure of Survival explores a constellation of themes related to the effects of political, economic and social crises in the developing world," says Basualdo. "The show does not attempt to fully document this situation, but to explore the ways in which artists and architects have reacted and react to these sets of conditions. Notions of sustainability, self-organisation and the articulation of various forms of aesthetic agency as forms of resistance are recurrent in the show. It is the powerful image of one of the most shocking and imposing evidences of these conditions in the city, the overwhelming presence of the shanty towns. The show will thus trace their presence in the cultural imagination of the developing world, and introduce the shanty as the object of a number of recent anthropological, urban and socio-economic studies."

Chris Ledochowski was born in Pretoria in 1956 and grew up outside Johannesburg. He attended boarding school at Waterford - Kamhlaba in Swaziland. After completing military service he studied at Michaelis School of Find Art, University of Cape Town majoring in Photography. In the early 1980s he joined the Afriapix photographic collective and Afroscope, its film and video component. He contributed to the Second Carnegie inquiry into Poverty and Development and worked closely with the S.A. Labour Unit at UCT. Apart from documenting the ongoing struggles and strife in the communities on the Cape Flats he dedicated much of his work to documenting the formation and development of the Congress of South African Trade Unions and related worker organizations within the Western Cape. While photographing in the townships he also took on commissioned portraits, which he hand coloured for his subjects. His long standing experience and relationship with these communities drew him further into recording their various cultural and sub-cultural expressions. Since 1994 he has covered the townships almost exclusively in colour for political, aesthetic and documentary reasons.

Apart from his ongoing work in townships and long-term rural projects in Venda and Pondoland, he is regularly invited to collaborate on group projects and contribute to national and international exhibitions. He continues to work as a freelance photographer in Cape Town.

1.   Eagles over Table Bay. Hanover Park, 1996

2.   Cascade Court. Hanover Park, 1991

3.   Ice for Sale. Ezinyoka, 1992

4.   Home Mural. Hanover Park, 1991

5.   Bedroom Mural. Khayelitsha, 1991

6.   The Rasta Greenhouse effect. Vrygrond, 1998

7.   Athlone Towers. Philippi, 1996

8.   New SA Interior. Joe Slovo, 1999

9.   Ghandi's Lounge, bonteheuwel, 1993

10.   Heart of the Home. Joe Slove, 1999

11.   Zion Apostolic Church. KTC, 1997

12.   Crowded Lounge. Lavender Hill, 1992

13.  House and Garden. KTC, 1998

14.  Unfinished Mural. Ezinyoka, 1993

15.  Studio Home. Ezinyoka, 1992

16.   'Simunye Grooves' Photo Studio. Nyanga, 1996

17.   Afternoon Madrasah. Hanover Park, 1990

18.  Street Mural. Lavender Hill, 1996

19.   Tin Shack. Lusaka, 1990

20.   Hung out to dry. KTC, 1997

21.   Open Air Gospel Service. Brown's Farm, 1994

22.   Masjied. Heinz Park, 1998

23.   Sheikh Yusuf Kramat. Faure. 1994

24.   Roadside stall. Parkwood Estate, 1998

25.   Gqirha's Practise. Kwa Khikhi, 1995

26.   Fruit and Veg Stall. Site C, 1990

27.   Wire Globes. Mkonto Square, 1998

28.   Bra Z's 'Simunye Grooves' Photo Studio. Nyanga, 1996

29.   Drums to Order. KTC, 1993

30.   Chicco's Hair Salon. Nyanga, 2000

31.   Ancestral Slaughtering. Guguletu, 1998

32.   Curing Sheepskins. Mkonto Square, 1998

33.  'Lion of Judah'. Site C, 1991

34.   Voter's Choice. Mitchells Plain, 1994

35.  Old Bakery Truck. Langa, 1992

36.   Psalm of David. KTC, 1990

37.  'For Sale'. Philippi, 1997

38.   Street Game. Mkonto Square, 1996

39.   Miya's Peace Garden. Barcelona, 1991

40.   Community Library. Mkonto Square, 1990

41.   Hostel shebeen. Freedom square, Nyanga, 1992

42.   Ship models. Guguletu, 1996

43.   Horse and Rider. Primrose Park, 1994

44.   Spaza shop. Black City, Nyanga, 1990

45.   Bride with family. Guguletu, 2002

46.   Now is the time, Miya's peace garden, Barcelona, 1991

2003 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.