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AN exhibition of photographs archiving integral periods during South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy opened last night at artSPACE in Durban.
Titled Lights, Camera, Fire... the exhibition is a collection of images from Afrapix photo-graphers Cedric Nunn, Rafs Mayet and Deseni Soobben.
The trio contributed to the Afrapix Photo Agency in the 80s, an “alternative” photographic operation which provided photographs to news agencies predominantly about what was going on in the townships during the politically tense era in South African history.
Tonight caught up with Mayet who explained that the selection of photographs by him and his colleagues includes social commentary images that were not published by the local mainstream media at the time, as well as some of their personal collection, based on themes close to their hearts.
He said plans for the exhibition started when the trio stumbled upon each other at a popular Durban eatery earlier this year after several years of not seeing each other.
“In the 80s we were part of a photographic collective called Afrapix. It existed as part of our commitment at the time to get the news to the world about what was happening during that time, and the time of the State of Emergency in the country.
Omar Badsha and Paul Weinberg started Afrapix which was made up of photographers from across the country. In Durban there were eight of us,” Mayet said.
He added that it was their good standing with churches and other community organisations, and committees. “It wasn’t so much a matter of scoop mentality for us, but about getting the story out there. At that time there were a lot of marches that were going on by people opposing apartheid.
“The exhibition will cover the late 80s, early 90s… what was happening politically and some of our own personal projects too,” said Mayet.
“It is also a taste of what’s to come next year, as we commemorate 20 years of democracy in South Africa, when we host a bigger exhibition of the works of Afrapix photographers in Durban. There were eight of us based here.”
Mayet said the exhibition runs until October 26. “It’s part of our contribution to the relative freedom we enjoy today. At that time there were many alternative publications that came out against apartheid, so these images were our contribution to help in getting those stories out there.”
From covering heated political situations on the ground to meeting secretly to avoid the Special Branch (police tasked with monitoring anti-apartheid movements), Mayet and his colleagues have seen it all. And in his opinion much of these kinds of social issues are cyclic.
“In the 60s Ernest Cole had to leave the country in order to publish his book, House of Bondage, which was banned in the country. What he did in the 60s was what we did in the 80s and it’s what we face today… (Inequality with) housing, homes, education, health… The majority of our people are still in the same boat.
“Maybe politically we have a lot more freedom, but economically we are in the same boat,” he said.
• Lights, Camera, Fire... is currently running at artSPACE until October 26, 3 Millar Road (alongside Waste Centre, off Umgeni Road). Entry is free. For more info call 031 312 0793.