While it remains to be seen what picture the numbers paint ahead of the 2019 general election, that sentiment of political apathy is still associated with young people.
Exhibiting at the Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival on June 28 at the Women’s Gaol on Constitution Hill, is the culmination of a two-year long photographic journey by Jodi Bieber titled #i.
The public poster exhibition sees Bieber collaborate with 45 young Joburg residents from different race groups, cultural backgrounds and income groups to create a poster of what they consider a vision for their country.
Bieber’s works have traditionally given audiences a jarring, yet deeply humanist view of social issues, and her previous exhibitions Real Beauty, Women who have murdered their husbands, Soweto, and, Between Dogs and Wolves, have been exactly that.
Approaching this body of work, Bieber said she had done research into the subject because she felt the time was right for their voices to be heard ahead of the 2019 elections.
“They are a newer generation. When I was photographing them, as opposed to an older generation, they had their own identities. Additionally, they have their own language. They’re connected to the Internet so they’re globally connected. They didn’t grow up under apartheid, so I think their whole narrative is something completely different. I’m not saying, ‘forget what happened,’ but I’m saying in order to move forward, a new kind of thinking is needed. The new generation is going to take us there,” Bieber said.
Bieber added that where political parties had their own campaigns ahead of 2019, she wanted to create her own where young people speak on what they want for SA, what their ideals are and their thoughts on the current situation in parliament.
“I wanted to do this in a funky way using posters, and that’s what I conceptualised. The interviews that I did are much longer, it’s what young people like to listen to, and so on. What was incredible was that I think the questions were quite hard, so one day, if I get the funding, the book will be quite relevant to research on young people,” she said.
The 45 young people are from various places in the Gauteng province. When asked whether she perceived the young people she’d spoken to to be politically apathetic she said: “No. I found them to be politically conscious, I just don’t know if they’d vote. But they all have a view, even if not all of them are politically active. They still know what goes on around them. I think where they find themselves in life impacts how it all plays out,” she said.
The posters are unique in that they represent what are the foremost burning issues in the young people’s lives. The issues discussed range from body image, to the impact of the arts in society, to issues of access to education. Here, everything is political.
“For instance Ameera speaks of how the arts can improve a person’s life.She questions why it is that when South Africans are good at something, they go overseas to get their recognition. She speaks about the economic value of the arts,” Bieber explained.
In the posters, a portrait of the young person is placed onto the poster, with a poignant quote from the interview and designed onto the poster by Brenton Maart. Bieber has additionally requested images from the young people that are significant to them, often sent to her via WhatsApp, and she incorporated these onto the poster as well.
“For two years there’s been a sharing. They’ve said if they’re in town, they are coming and bringing family and friends,” she said.
One of the difficulties Bieber mentioned is that she had little funding to create the work. “I think that people have a specific agenda when it comes to funding. Also if you’re not an NPO/NGO it gets harder to get funding. But there have been some people coming to the project. Individuals have bought previous works, ConHill put something in, Lebone Printers gave me a discount, so it’s been a joint project. I have not only been the conceptualiser, but also the producer.”
The posters will be A2, allowing people to see the detail clearly.
The project at its essence, is about young people being heard. And Bieber has put a spanner in the works. In the spirit of moving art, visitors to the exhibition will be able to take a poster with them. It’s been a passion project, one in line with her lifetime undertaking of telling people’s stories through the lens.
It will be on show at the Women’s Prison on June 28, during the Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival. For tickets, line up and other details visit: www.bashauhuru.co.za