Cry the beloved country

VANESSA SMEETS

“Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all,” Aristotle.

It has taken months to find the energy or a story worth writing, but watching these students burn, destroy and steal has ravished my soul…

Don’t get me wrong, the “born-frees” of South Africa have the right to be angry. They are experiencing high-cost of living like no one before. A loaf of bread is R15, a two-litre bottle of milk is R30, rent on average is R5 000 for a one-bedroom flat near campus, a BA degree is about R20 000 with registration fees soaring at R5 000 – R15 000, depending on you being a citizen or not.

However, is burning the varsities a solution? No.
There will be no education there tomorrow.

Is looting shops nearby a solution? No.
No one will take your cause seriously anymore.

Is using violence, beating policemen with bricks, the answer? No.
They will not protect you at your most vulnerable.

There’s a dark cloud above the youth of today. It disguises itself as honour and pride. They believe it is better to fight, than just survive.

While last year’s “Fees Must Fall” seemed noble, with students gathering around campus in unity, this year’s cause is dampened with innocent blood and soiled ideals. As predicted, the fight last year was quickly “shut up,” only to rise again this year as an angrier, more vicious corpse. The people of South Africa were given, as usual, temporary solutions to a major issue – to satisfy that moment, to kill that immediate need. Meanwhile, the solution infected other areas – varsities are going bankrupt, lecturers are not being paid on time.

“They can afford it!” the students scream, their shields made of mattresses and ironing boards high in the air. Their anger is sadly aimed in the wrong direction – the government’s expenditure that needs to be reprimanded, not the educators…

Varsities have not been able to continue with exam season.
Students are failing, as they are too afraid to come to class or be threatened on campus.

South Africa’s “rainbow nation” has continued to fade, suffocated by smoke, empty promises and an uncertain dawn.

Can we raise our children in a country where the only answer seems to be destruction?You want his car? Shoot him.
You want her to feel your power? Rape her.
You want that baby? Kidnap it.
You want free education? Burn it all.

Cry for our beloved country.
Cry on this thirsty land that craves for manna in all her forms – rain, money or change.

Powerful photographs by Lee-Roy Jason Photography.

My heritage has no colour

VANESSA SMEETS

Just in time for Heritage Week in South Africa, a time when we come together to celebrate our diversity and uniqueness, I found myself in an unexpected racist spat on Facebook.

The Stellenbosch debate

The person involved had made a comment about Stellenbosch University being racist for not becoming anglicized. There are two sides to this debate: Yes, Stellenbosch University is trying to preserve its Afrikaans heritage and culture by remaining as Afrikaans as possible but it does try to accommodate English speaking students with the T-option (bilingualism) in certain broad under-grad modules and most of post-grad is English, as well as all the textbooks.

I admit that I made the fatal mistake of defending my old university first, instead of the angry person’s argument. I completed my Honours there and Afrikaans was probably my most dreaded subject at school. Being white does not mean I speak Afrikaans, just as much as being black does not mean you speak isiZulu. However, Stellenbosch was the only university that offered such a brilliant practical course in such a short time frame.
Yes, I struggled when the lecturers would accidentally slip into Afrikaans, but, one has to admit, it’s not such a difficult language… There are only three tenses, unlike English or French who have variants of past, present and future, depending on the context or even type of writing. French, for example, uses a fascinating tense of “simple past” reserved only for certain written texts.

White supremacist? No, idealist.
peopleAnyway, bringing this up only added fuel to the fire. This old school pal, then proceeded to tell me I should go back to Europe with my “white supremacy tendencies.” My blood, like most, is filled with exceptional love stories: the Jew who fell in love with a German, the Belgian with the Congolese, the Walloon with the Flemish (tribal ‘rivalries’ of Belgium)… Maybe only 20% of me actually belongs in Europe. Do not be fooled by my shell, because I am actually a product of the forbidden and I embrace it, because a lot of people went through hell to love the one they knew was meant for them.

Education as key

The thing is, a good teacher is one that does not see colour, gender or religion. Eight years of teaching have taught me this: every child is unique and parents are the biggest factors in determining how the child behaves or performs academically at school. It doesn’t matter whether the child is orange, pink or blue, if the mom and dad treat the child with equal amounts of attention, the child is at peace at school. If one of the parent is not part of the child’s life, the child does start to seek certain amounts of attention from the gender that is missing. Every child cries they same when he/ she is not invited to a certain party, to the jungle gym or when he/she falls off the swing. Every child smiles the same after seeing mommy or daddy after a long day of work. Every child is exceptionally proud when you say: “Keep up the great work!”

Children quote

Do they see colour or religion on the playground? Definitely not before the age of seven, unless parents have made a fuss of it at home. The only thing they do see at this age is gender:
“Boys? Oh gross, they are so dirty and rough!”
“Girls? I don’t want to be made the dad in that ‘house-house’ game all the time.”

At age seven, they enter primary school and are exposed to an even more diverse group of people. Teachers say things they shouldn’t necessarily say. They also converse or play with older children that have been exposed to more.

At age nine and ten, children don’t worry so much about the social aspects of school, but start a deep journey of self-analysis:
What do I like?
What are my needs?
Why am I feeling this way?

This, I believe is the time they are the most sensitive to topics like racism. Now that I’m teaching this age, I made it my duty to teach them “the rights of the child” first. At the end of their short presentations, I asked them the same question:
“Which to you is the most important?”

Every answer, from 27 different mouths: “To be loved.”
“Why?”
“Because if I do not feel loved, I cannot love others. I cannot accept them.”
“If I do not feel loved, I will always feel jealous of others.”
“If I do not feel loved, I will refuse to see anyone’s own point of view.”
“If I do not feel loved, I will never experience peace.”
“If I do not feel loved, I will never feel secure with myself or others.”

This to me is the cure to racism: a simple yet over empowering act: to love selflessly, to see others’  point of view.
So, to that old school friend that has been tarnished by a certain person’s group or actions, I apologize – my heritage has no colour. It is a spectrum of experiences, of life lessons, of the desire to learn from our youngest yet purest minds.

“Oh great, you teach black children?! Get over your white saviour complex.”

Humans

To that school pal, I am not just a teacher… I am actually the one being taught every single day. You insulted my race and I felt nothing. You proceeded to call me “an embarrassment to my late grandmother” who is of mixed race, and I felt my blood boil, because it became personal. You then proceeded by insulting my life force, which is teaching.

If it were not for the children I teach every day, I would have probably become as bitter as you. But I have hope not only for South Africa, but for every adult. As adults, we need to keep quiet and let our children explain life… Because we have obviously forgotten what it feels like to be curious about others, to listen to their stories, to be proud of all diversity and most importantly to think before acting… And to love and accept others with our all.

heritage

heritage

Fading Rainbow

VANESSA SMEETS

Madiba_goodbye

FREEDOM: Is this goodbye? A democratic South Africa struggles to say goodbye to the man who freed her, as balloons, cards and posters fill up his hospital wall in Pretoria. PIC: Vanessa Smeets

In 1991, I came to a hateful, racist country that was on the verge of revival. Coming from Zimbabwe, I was shocked to see no black, Indian or coloured children in my class. “Where are they… the children of colour?” I asked my teacher one day. She looked at me confused. “Didn’t your parents tell you? We are separated here. We are different.”

Different? My black friends in Zimbabwe all spoke English. They taught me the beauty of an African sunset, those were the only colours that mattered.

I spoke fluent Shona. I could sing the national anthem, which has the exact same tune to the South African one, Nkosi Sikelel ‘iAfrika. The television spoke of a civil war rising between the ANC (African National Congress) and the IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party).

Madiba_Bang Bang Club

BANG BANG SA: Greg Marinovich and other photojournalists documented South Africa’s gruesome civil war as the Bang Bang Club, now a major motion movie under the same name. PIC: Internet

My parents were glued every night to the screen: “Maybe it’s time we go back?” “But we just got here.” Chris Hani’s gruesome assassination in his driveway rocked the country the most. He was the Communist Party leader and yet, being so popular, there was hint he had a good chance at winning the next elections.

The unrest and murders were documented by the Bang Bang Club in photojournalism that shocked the world. The ANC’s leader, Nelson Mandela (a Xhosa), was set free. For years, the country had labelled him “a terrorist.” Today, he is known as our most cherished “freedom fighter.” He was even condemned by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who later visited him as our leader.

I was only eight years old when Nelson Mandela took the oath in April 1994, next to FW De Klerk, to rebuild our country and her people. Yet, I remember it like yesterday. A man of peace stood before us. He was imprisoned for 27 years for treason. He was only allowed to send one letter every six months and get a visitor for only 30 minutes once a year.

Madiba_De Klerk

PEACE: The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1993 to Nelson Mandela and FW De Klerk (who was his predecessor and deputy president) for “The peaceful termination of Apartheid.” PIC: Internet

It takes a lot to stand against your oppressors, learn their language and finally lead them. It takes a Godly man. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize alongside De Klerk.

My dad took us to the Union Buildings the week after our first democratic elections. There was still confetti all over the lawns. Our new flag was flown proudly above the arches.
“Do you know what this man and flag mean for all of us?” Dad asked us.
“Not really…”
“It means we are all free. We are free to vote. We are free to take the same bus. We are free to go to the same schools.”

The rainbow flag fascinated me the most: the red for our blood-shed, the white for our peace, the yellow for our riches, the blue for our two oceans, the black for our tribes. The green “Y” shows two parts becoming one. Eleven languages were a result of our separation known as “homelands.” I even remember taking my domestic worker regularly to check her pass, a few years before. “I am different to you,” she showed me. “I have to be in bed at a certain time, I cannot go to certain places.” She had eyes, ears, a nose and curly hair like me and I also had to be in bed by a certain time, it was hard for a young child to understand.

Little by little, my father’s prophecy came true. Black, coloured, Indian children trickled one by one into my school. The children played with each other’s hair the most, it was fascinating to finally meet them. Nelson Mandela’s real first name is “Rolihlahla” meaning ‘pulling the branch of a tree’ and that’s exactly what he stood for. He took a poisoned tree of South Africa and gave her new branches: the branches of courage, forgiveness, patience and peace.

People were worried the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) trials would open old wounds. And, while they did, our new country (thanks to Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu) bled less in her quest for peace. Most perpetrators were given amnesty or asylum elsewhere.

Madiba_collage

SPORTS’ HERO: Nelson Mandela reunited South Africa using sport. PICS: Various sources GRAPHIC: Vanessa Smeets

Nelson Mandela saw the one thing that united us all: sport. While the black people of South Africa loved football (or soccer, as we call it), the whites preferred rugby. As documented by the Hollywood movie Invictus, Nelson Mandela stood at the Rugby World Cup in 1995, shaking hands with our Springboks. They sang the new national anthem proudly that day, after much practice, and took the cup home for us. That golden cup represented a golden era for South Africa that would forever be known as the “Madiba years.” Father of our nation aka Tata Madiba, for his clan name. He was our oldest elected president at 75. But, he’s not only “father of the nation,” he’s keeper of peace and guardian of our rainbow nation.

Today, I am struck with the realisation it’s time to let him go. Yet, like so many other South Africans, I am unable to free the man that set us free. South Africa stands uncertain: what will happen to the ANC? To our peace?

My only wish is that his last memory of us will be positive. Despite our xenophobia, crime and incessant complaining, that we can rise above and meet his ideals again: a country bound by love and forgiveness. You divide a nation by fear and hatred. Those who fear and hate, they flee. He gave us courage and taught us forgiveness. The problem with every rainbow, is that it slowly fades, but its beauty lives on. Mandela painted that rainbow for us.

In 2004, with his help, we were given the chance to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It was the biggest challenge to ever face South Africa; our stadiums were small or worn down. But, somehow, his smiling face grabbing onto that trophy motivated us.

In 2006, I interviewed eight 8-year olds for a newspaper article about what they would give him for his 88th birthday. Their answers were beautiful: “eternal life,” “immortality,” “freedom” and “happiness.”

Madiba_wall

FREEDOM BABIES: Mandela has touched both our oldest and youngest citizens. Pretoria Montessori Pre-school’s art illuminates his hospital wall with messages of hope and love. PIC: Vanessa Smeets

Today, I am teaching four and five year olds what he means to us. These freedom babies have still a lot to learn about his legacy. Their messages on their art for his hospital wall reveal, however, that they finally comprehend what he stands for:
“He is the grandfather I always wish I had.”
“Our country will be so sad without him.”
“He was the best president we ever had.”
“Mandela means freedom for us all.”
“It’s thanks to him, I can go to school with everyone.”

It’s the biggest full moon of the year. In a way, she consoles us: “Don’t worry, South Africa. Rest assured, his light will shine on.”

EXTRA SOURCE:

 

Paradise Lost: Zimbabwe

A little bit of paradise lost found again…


The end of freedom of speech? The cartoonist’s plight…

VANESSA SMEETS

In light of what has happened to one of South Africa’s most cherished cartoonists, Zapiro (who admitted the SABC tried to influence what he had to say and then canned the interview) it is time to hear the plight of our cartoonists, as the end of freedom of speech in South Africa becomes a daunting reality.

Jerm_pic

FREE SPEECH: Some of South Africa’s best cartoonists, Jerm (second to left) and Zapiro (right), speak to students at Stellenbosch University in 2010. Zapiro’s interview with the SABC was recently canned, while Jerm was fired from The New Age for not agreeing to their terms… Is free speech history in South Africa? PIC: Vanessa Smeets

Here is a one-on-one with one of South Africa’s sharpest minds, JERM:

Jeremy Nell aka Jerm has built his reputation in the last few years as one of South Africa’s most successful cartoonists. Originally from Cape Town, his cartoons range from the hilarious “Biggish Five” about the Big Five as baby animals to his more serious political cartoons.

He was recently in the news after losing his job at The New Age newspaper for “not being aligned to their editorial vision and mission”. He recently published his first cartoons for Eye Witness News, keeping audiences entertained with his brilliant ideas and poking fun at our politicians.

How do you feel about The New Age’s excuse for terminating your contract?

I think that’s a nice way of saying that they don’t like my criticisms and lampooning. EWN approached me after they heard the news, and pioneered a new cartooning direction for South Africa. Never before has there been an online-only political cartoonist (being paid for original content). And it’s a very exciting space because of EWN’s overlap with Primedia’s radio stations. Furthermore, they’re an amazing bunch of people.

Hold on… Tell the readers more about your background…

My whole life has been in Cape Town. I went to Rondebosch Boys Primary School. Then, when I went to Fairmont High School, it was the greatest moment of my life. Not because of the school, but because there were girls. Loads of them. They were everywhere. I was in Heaven.

What are your passions?

I obviously hate drawing cartoons. But I love playing my ukulele; playing a ukulele is the most fun anyone will have for a grand! I enjoy going away to little towns and dorpies and places that are quiet, that make delicious food, and that are welcoming to ukuleles.

Tell us more about your work…

Well, I draw a syndicated comic strip called “The Biggish Five”, but my other work doesn’t really have names. For example, political cartooning and caption cartooning tends to be nameless. And illustrations that I do for magazines are much the same. I suppose it all falls under “Jerm”.

Jerm_biggish5

BIG DREAMS: Jerm’s Biggish Five take the Big Five (leopard, rhino, lion, buffalo and elephant) to create light-hearted yet educational pieces. Courtesy: Jerm

Which publications do you work for?

My work has appeared in a few publications ranging from The Witness, The Star, Pretoria News, Dispatch, Sunday Times, The Times, The New Age, Daily Maverick, EWN, Beeld, Rapport, and more, to magazines such as FHM, Playboy, Cosmopolitan, The Media, Dekat, and others.

What inspired your love for cartooning? And, from what age?

From as far back as I can remember. I was inspired by TV cartoons, mostly; Daffy Duck and Pink Panther and all those fantastic “Golden Age” cartoons that we all love.

What continues to drive the passion?

I suppose seeing the finished product. I get an idea and I like seeing how it comes out. Oh, and being paid to do that is a wonderful incentive.

What is your cure to writer’s block?

I have no cure and it happens a lot! If you know the cure, then please contact me.

Which is your personal favourite?

I have no personal favourite. In fact, I feel embarrassed by a lot of my earlier work (style, usually) and tend to push my boundaries in an attempt to improve and satisfy my expectations.

Which are you least proud of?

I am proud of pretty much every cartoon that I’ve done. But, as I said, I’m not necessarily satisfied with the quality of drawing. And, of course, there are a bunch of bloopers too.

Jerm_santa

ZUMA CHRISTMAS: South Africa’s cartoonists are some of the most privileged in Africa, allowed to poke fun at even our president. However, that may change soon as our government tightens its grip on media freedom… PIC: Jerm

How would you define “political cartooning”?

Making comments about current affairs and pop culture and the world around us, without attempting to provide solutions.

Jerm also makes short movies depicting South Africa’s current situation. This one gives a wonderful overview of Nkandla, President Zuma’s bustling castle…


Have you ever gotten into trouble for your work (sued/ harassed/ warned)?

No, I’ve not reached Zapiro’s level, in that regard. I mean, yes, I’ve had a lot of cartoons pulled, and I’ve had a number of irate readers, and the NSPCA once lodged a complaint against me, but nothing too serious. Unfortunately.

Have you ever been rejected by an editor for being too controversial?

Yes. Plenty. I was even fired, not too long ago.

Which other cartoonists (South African or international) are your favourites?

In no order of preference, my list would include cartoonists and non-cartoonists: Zapiro, Rico, Peter Sellers, Bill Cosby, Quentin Blake, and a bunch more.

What is your greatest achievement thus far?

This interview. LOL.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully following Roald Dahl’s footsteps and working from a little Wendy House in my back garden. (Close enough to home, but far away enough from noise.) And, perhaps being able to play a few more songs on my ukulele.

What is your advice to other aspiring cartoonists?

Being a cartoonist is not easy. It took me years just to be able to buy a more comfortable chair, for example. You have to believe in yourself and when you feel like giving up, have a shot of vodka or go for a walk. And rejection is a daily occurrence. Make sure that your skin grows thick very quickly. If you can get through the challenges, then you find that the rewards are great. Like drinking shots of vodka.

Jerm_madiba

RANDELA: Jerm captures the heart of our new notes… No one can replace our first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela. PIC: Jerm

You can follow Jerm on Twitter: @mynameisjerm
Like his Facebook fan-page: https://www.facebook.com/mynameisjerm
See more of his work on: http://africartoons.com/cartoonist/jerm and www.jerm.co.za


 

 

What makes SA better than the USA:

VANESSA SMEETS

In spirit of the USA Election fever, I decided to analyze what makes South Africa better than what seems to be “the Divided States of America” at the moment:

  • Nkandla is bigger than the White House!
blog_nkandla

FORTRESS: Zuma’s homestead “Nkandla” in Kwa-Zulu Natal will cost taxpayers about R200 million to upgrade. PIC: Eyewitness News

  • We have more than one First Lady. They may not be as sporty as Michelle Obama, but they run around the most amazing cities in the world, looking busy and fabulous.
  • While Obama laughs at his caricatures, our president sues our cartoonists, drops the charges, so he can pay for the charges accused him of in those cartoons, in the first place… That’s much more entertaining in the long run.
  • Jacob Zuma is far more “potent” than any other president, with over 20 children from various women. Also, his penis has been painted, mounted, torn off, replaced, reproduced by fine artists, cartoonists and even school children (as The Star so refreshingly put on their front-page weeks ago). Sorry, “mounted” sounded so wrong there.
blog_zuma kids

POTENCY: Zuma has never been a fan of Jonathan Shapiro aka Zapiro, who has mastered the art of Zuma’s blossoming career as our president. PIC courtesy: Zapiro

  • We have the same former president on all our bank notes – much less confusing than the American notes.
  • We have 11 official languages and dozens of dialects, including Tsotsitaal, “Thief language.” Yes, no kidding. Just in case they call you from the cellphone they end up throwing away anyway.
  • We have a jester that wants the throne, outdoing George W. Bush and Mitt Romney in his actions and speech: Julius Malema.
blog_malema

MALEMA DILEMMA: We love to hate him and hate to love him… Our former ANC Youth leader still manages to make front-page through his actions and speeches. PIC: Google Images

  • Our ministers are famous for bribes and some of their wives for being drug mules. Imagine a senate like that? It keeps our media busy.
  • Our Hillary Clinton is Helen Zille! Only she dances much better and has entertaining fights with our jester. Here she shows off her African skill:
  • We have a population of about 50 million, where the majority continues to vote for the party associated with the struggle, when they seem to be the cause of our latest struggles (including the building of Nkandla). In the words of Joseph Stalin, adored by millions whom he eventually sacrificed:“It’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes.”

As close as it gets: James Nachtwey

VANESSA SMEETS

“I have been a witness and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.”
James Nachtwey

James Nachtwey

PEACE AMONGST WAR: James Nachtwey takes a break from photographing the horrific... PIC: Online

In the Killing Fields

When legendary photographer Robert Capa claimed: “If the picture wasn’t good enough, you weren’t close enough,” it’s as if he had James Nachtwey in mind.

Nachtwey has been to some of the most war-torn places in the world: Bosnia, Sudan, South Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan, amongst others. He is often on scene with soldiers, terrorists or war-crazy citizens. It was only while photographing a bomb explosion, skin melting off his arm that he realized his obsession with getting the right shot had taken over his life and sanity. Nachtwey suffered for years from post-traumatic stress disorder. In various interviews, he describes his nightmares as simple recollections of what already had been, only now the mangled corpses were screaming out in pain, asking for help.

Rwanda Hutu Camp Genocide

SCARRED: A survivor from a Hutu death camp; Rwanda/ 1994. PIC: James Nachtwey

Echoing Silent Voices

His horrific experiences turned Nachtwey into a recluse, unable to communicate properly with his family and colleagues. Nachtwey has since admitted that he is slowly recovering and jokingly claims: “Somehow the only way to replace such morbid pain and anger is to be fascinated by that which is even more morbid. It is a never-ending love-hate relationship with what you are witnessing.”
When Nachtwey speaks, his voice is as steady as his hand on the camera. There is a monotony to his voice that makes him sound like a Shaman amongst photographers. It has become more than just a profession, but a passion. His colleagues in the documentary War Photographer describe this as a passion-turned-obsession. Even after the shot is taken, Nachtwey will spend hours cropping and changing levels of light or saturation on Photoshop. Nothing, however, is manipulated, but only aimed at getting a better account of what happened. Nachtwey has claimed for years that the credibility of one’s pictures is all about your own account and testimony on the field. His photographs are often on eye-level, to make the viewer feel as if he/ she was there.

Sudan Famine

DESPAIR: Nachtwey's account of the famine in Sudan during the 1990s helped open the world's eyes to what he calls "the weapon of mass extermination." PIC: James Nachtwey/ site

Cream of the Crop

Zimbabwean photojournalist Richard Con* hails Nachtwey as “the most legendary photographer of all time,” stating:

“When Mugabe’s militants tortured me for ten hours to get my photos, I thought of Nachtwey in that documentary claiming every bit of torture, whether expected or not, is worth it. But yet, I’ve come to realize people act in front of the camera. When I photographed civil war in South Africa around the same time as Nachtwey, I realized men become savages to seem more amazing on film. That is when I had enough…”

CNN foreign correspondent Christian Amanpour describes Nachtwey as “a loner…a mystery” with an incredible drive, yet compassion, for those he photographs. Nachtwey insists in the documentary that a photographer must never force him/herself upon the scene. He has learnt the most effective photographs come from respecting your subjects. Their grief somewhat becomes your grief. When they cry, you take a few pictures and offer them tissues and a few kind words. After all, they have offered you an intimate look into their personal world.

Illustrating Pain

Susan Sontag criticises photographers in Regarding the Pain of Others as insensitive, yet Nachtwey has learnt to creatively use the pain of others. He will, for example, photograph only half a crying face for more effect, as if the subject is still searching for some guidance or reassurance that will make them whole again.

Some have criticised this symbolism, while others have hailed it as ‘genius’ and ‘works of art.’ Nachtwey, however, does not see his pieces as ‘works of art’ but as fragments of people’s pain, suffering and daily life. He boldly claims:

“I do not want my works to be hung up in people’s homes as masterpieces. How can someone’s extreme pain be a masterpiece? Each piece is sacred, an intimate bit of his/ her life.”

nachtwey war photographer

BANG BANG: The documentry War Photographer, produced by Christian Frei (2001), is a bitter-sweet reflection into Nachtwey's passion, life and relationships with his colleagues. PIC: Online

Nachtwey’s signature trademark of photographing everything in black and white has shown the importance of composition over colour. “Jim” as he’s known amongst his friends has been in the business since 1980. He was first part of Magnum photo agency, then co-founded his own agency VII with other worldwide photographers.
Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva describe Nacthwey as “the missing member” of their Bang Bang Club in their book with the same title. Nachtwey covered some of the civil war between two tribes in South Africa: Xhosa (African National Congress Party) vs Zulu (Inkatha Freedom Party). Nachtwey was the one who carried wounded Marinovich to safety in 1994 and helped carry the body of his dead colleague Ken Oosterbroek. The movie with the same title is currently on circuit.

Being taken as a serious photojournalist demands days, weeks or even years of being in war-zones, amongst the dying and grieving for only a few published pictures. Yet Nachtwey has learnt over the years that such few published pictures can change the lives of those you are photographing, as well as the lives of those who see them:

“Sometimes, one picture will touch one person then another and suddenly I am swarmed with people offering money, food or shelter. It is then that I realize even just one picture was all worth it.” 

EXTRA SOURCES:

Documentary: War Photographer (2001) produced by Christian Frei
http://www.jamesnachtwey.com
Book: Bang Bang Club by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva
Various interviews of Nachtwey on YouTube
Personal interview with Richard Con*
Class notes

Behind the mask of xenophobia (via Chica Papillon)

If only more people read this…

Behind the mask of xenophobia VANESSA SMEETS At the abandoned babies’ home, there are five newborns neatly placed in a row. One is a white baby, Luke, with tiny pink lips, whose parents are originally German. Two generations ago, the war played a part in his family moving … Read More

via Chica Papillon