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I live at 6,000 feet in a society whirling, stamping, swaying with the force of revolutionary change. The vision is heady; the image of the demonic dance is accurate, not romantic: an image of...
Author: Nadine Gordimer
Publication date: 20 JANUARY 1983
Publisher: The New York Review of Books
Celebrating the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s life is an opportunity to move away from the cliché-ridden assessments of his multi-faceted personality. Understanding Mandela means grappling with the...
Author: Professor Raymond Suttner
Publication date: 28 May 2018
Publisher: Daily Maverick
An unusual, apparently contradictory set of personality traits combined to make Nelson Mandela the leader that he became. One of these was notorious stubbornness, which nevertheless combined with a...
Author: Professor Raymond Suttner
Publication date: 11 June 2018
Publisher: Daily Maverick
Despite the vast literature on Nelson Mandela, the qualities that his leadership comprised has been surprisingly neglected. If we are to learn from Mandela, we need to engage with what he did, how he...
Author: Professor Raymond Suttner
Publication date: 4 June 2018
Publisher: Daily Maverick
South Africa’s minister of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has released a report from a ministerial task team that recommends a major overhaul of the history curriculum at schools. Most of...
Author: Michelle Friedman
Publication date: 1 June 2018
A short, well-dressed 44-year-old man of the southern African Barolong tribe stood at the American border near Niagara Falls holding Canadian passport No. 79551. It stated the bearer was a British...
Author: Matthew Blackman
Publication date: 29 May 2018
Preface In the decade preceding the dramatic February 1990 unbanning of South Africa’s black liberatory movements, many hundreds of concerned South Africans undertook to make contact with exile...
Author: Michael Savage
Author: Julie Parle and Vanessa Noble
Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Occasional Publications of the Natal Society Foundation
Sibongile ‘Promise’ Khumalo claims that, after running away from home in the 1970s to receive military training in exile, she was sexually abused by the then PAC president. (Photographer: Oupa Nkosi...
Author: Carl Collison
Publication date: 27 October 2017
Author: Garth Canon Benneyworth
Publication date: 2 November 2017
Publisher: South Africa Historical Journal
Author: Garth Benneyworth
Publication date: 04 December 2017
Author: Garth Benneyworth
Publication date: 1963
Publisher: South African Historical Journal
Author: Garth Benneyworth
Publication date: 15 August 2017
Publisher: South African Historical Journal
‘The South African labour market,’ Charles van Onselen writes in New Nineveh, ‘has always been dominated by … mining, agriculture and domestic service.’ Van Onselen’s two-volume history of ‘everyday...
Author: Jeremy Harding
Publication date: 26 April 2018
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela – doyen of South Africa’s liberation struggle and the matriarch who was dubbed ‘the mother of the nation’ – took the apartheid system head-on, at the huge personal cost. Her...
Author: Mashupye Herbert Maserumule
Publication date: 3 April 2018
First published by Spotlight.Africa Winnie Madikizela Mandela was not a safe pair of hands. True, life was far easier, calmer and less frightening and stressful for her husband in his almost 30...
Author: Paul Trewhela
Publication date: 6 April 2018

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Art is an act of resistance. It asserts our agency. Omar Badsha has identified not only as an artist, but an activist for most of his life. Born in 1945, he grew up under the oppression of apartheid, facing injustice on a daily basis. He was harassed, his work was banned, and his movement was restricted. But Badsha fought back with photography. Today his work as a historian is ensuring that the truth of our past, and our future, remains free.     

Badsha discovered his love of politics through his father, being raised in a house where activists came to meet. He had dreams of studying art abroad, but in 1965 was denied a passport by the government. Nevertheless, he continued to create, and that same year one of his woodcuts won the first of many awards. As a man well known for his doggedness, veracity, and humanity, Badsha refused to exhibit his drawings and paintings in segregated galleries. When he joined the trade union movement he turned his eye to photography. Badsha’s first book of photographs, Letter to Farzanah, was banned after release. Now freely accessible, his book depicts the lives of South African children of all races and backgrounds during apartheid. “We came out of a society where our history was actually erased, totally, not recognised,” he says. “But we turned it around during the anti-apartheid struggle.”

Badsha’s extensive photographic work has been exhibited globally, and it’s his emotive images of ordinary people that illustrate the heart behind his activism. In the 1990s, Badsha was finally given his first passport. It was only valid for three months, but the freedom he fought for came soon after as South Africa held its first democratic elections on 27 April 1994. He then founded South African History Online, a non-profit project dedicated to preserving an open history of our country. It’s the largest website of its kind in Africa, and has a virtual classroom to help teach children. In 2017, Badsha was awarded an honorary doctorate by Stellenbosch University. His work serves as a reminder that the pain of our past is not to be forgotten. Instead, it is the key to our future, and our freedom.

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