For each individual photographer, there was the struggle to overcome the blind spots resulting from an internalised apartheid ideology. To see what had not hitherto been seen; to make visible what had been invisible; to find ways of articulating through the medium of photography, a reality obscured by government propaganda. 1
The Rand Daily Mail , a prominent, liberal, South African daily] routinely avoided using pictures of black people unless they were rioting and which did not print the names of car accident victims unless they were white. 2
--Donald McNeil Jr.
Ideological propaganda and stringent censorship laws were two massive obstacles resistance photographers needed to overcome. This chapter traces the ideological construction of apartheid through the history of photography in South Africa, the South African government's censorship laws, and how those censorship laws pertained to and affected resistance photography. To appreciate resistance photography and its contribution to the liberation struggle one must have a contextual understanding of what it means to engage in resistance photography in South Africa.
Antecedents of Apartheid
Racism and segregation have been a part of South African history since the fabled bitter-almond hedge, which separated Jan Van Riebeeck and the first Dutch settlers of the seventeenth century from the Africans. 3 Moreover, racism had been legislated by the government since the Native Land Act of 1913 that restricted all Africans to thirteen percent of the land. The novelty of apartheid was the pervasiveness of its racist legislation. Apartheid can be defined as the de jure version of the ad hoc segregation and oppression that preceded it.
The predicament of white South Africans that lies at the heart of South Africa's racist history was how to harness the labor of black South Africans without having to handle the consequences of including them in South Africa's 'civilization.' Allister Sparks describes that attitude: "no black roots may be put down in the white man's sector. Blacks may be needed as workers, but a sense of impermanence should be preserved and a social and physical distance maintained." 4 The ad hoc methods of balancing exploiting black labor and alienating blacks from white society could not cope with the massive influx of Africans to white cities following World War Two. 5
The National Party won the election of 1948 on a platform that proposed an answer to this "native problem": apartheid, the systematic control of increasingly urbanized Africans. Not only were land ownership and the right to live in certain areas controlled through legislation, but also the right to move freely throughout the country, the right to marry certain people, the right to attend certain schools, and the right to publish certain documents and images. Before this essay turns to the last control on this list - that of images - it must first consider the historical place of photographic images in South African so as not to falsely isolate apartheid from its colonial antecedents.
Colonization and the Camera
South Africa's relationship with the camera is as extensive as that of any western nation. Photography arrived in South Africa just seven years after Henry Fox Talbot and Louis Daguerre made their respective photographic inventions in 1839. 6 Jules Leger is credited as being the first South African photographer in 1846 in Port Elizabeth. 7 In the latter half of the nineteenth century, missionaries, anthropologists, explorers, and traders - all forerunners of the colonial state - spread photography to the interior of the country.
The most cohesive archives that remain from that early period of South Africa's photographic history are those of the missionaries. Photographs played the dual role of garnering support for the mission and establishing a racial hierarchy. Photographs taken by missionaries found their way onto postcards sent home and onto the walls of the missions' churches and buildings. 8
There were various arguments implicit in the images missionaries created. One of those arguments was aggrandizing the scale of the task at hand. By portraying the land as barren and devoid of 'civilization,' missionaries made the case that they needed more resources to successfully achieve their goal of bringing Christianity to Africa. 9
The same propaganda campaign used photographs as proof of the successful taming of the natives. Often missions juxtaposed "before" images of Africans in traditional garb, with spears, drums, and elaborate bead-wear, with "after" images of a mass of Africans in European clothing sitting or standing obediently on the periphery of white clergymen. 10 Many of these "after" images also evoked respect for the adventurousness of the missionaries themselves, which was also an effective propaganda point for the missionaries. 11
While the missionary photographer edited through the viewfinder, much of the the most important editing was often done by an "armchair publicist" who edited the images in Europe so they would be effective in garnering support. 12 If the missionary's camera partially robbed native South Africans of the power to represent themselves, the armchair publicist completely usurped that power. The publicized images of native South Africans conformed more to the European imaginary than to the African reality. 13
The photographs taken by explorers like Charles Livingston and Dr. John Kirk on their expedition down the Zambesi River to Victoria Falls were testaments to their expeditions and trophies to be displayed in museums. 14 Those primitive ethnographies whetted the appetite of anthropologists, whose discipline was developing parallel to photography. 15 Anthropologists tended to use the objective truth photography commanded in the nineteenth century to validate their theories. An article published in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute in 1896 declared that photography provided "facts about which there can be no question." 16
Anthropologists employed photography as "proof" of their commonly racist evolutionary theories. Brent Harris writes, "photographs of the genitalia, facial and skull structure of the colonised 'other' were used to 'demonstrate' European physical superiority in a human hierarchy of development." 17 As with the missionary photographers, anthropologists were recreating their preconceived understanding of Africans in their photographs.
In many cases the projects of Anthropologists working in Africa were highly Eurocentric, which tainted their photographs with an European bias. An anthropologist working in the Northern Transvaal, Henri-Alexandre Junod, commented that anthropologists were studying Africa in an effort to understand their own pre-historic past in the wake of the industrialization that had swept the European continent in the nineteenth century. 18 A prevalent result of the anthropologists' project are accounts of African people, and images made to corroborate those accounts, describing and portraying African communities as static and bounded. 19 Although by the turn of the twentieth century there were over black 100, 000 people working in the South Africans mines, photographs of Africans mining were rare and hardly ever publicized. Black South Africans had been defined as 'other,' the antithesis of advanced, civilized, industrialized, white, European. 20
When professional photographers came to South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century with the latest photographic innovations from Britain and the United States, they incorporated the colonial images they had already seen into their photographs. South African photography is labeled pictorialism in 1906 when the International Photographic exhibition came to Cape Town and the first photographic salon organized by the Royal Photographic Society was held in Cape Town. 21 The themes that comprise, pictorialism, "landscape, seascape, architecture, portraiture and what was termed 'Native Studies'" dominated early South African photography. 22 These themes were conceived in debates conducted within the American Photographic Society and the Royal Photographic Society.
The most significant of those debates concerned how to reconcile photography with other visual arts, especially painting. Many photographs in the latter part of the nineteenth century went to great lengths to imitate paintings, often featuring paintings as their subject and coloring the photographs. 23 Photographic clubs that pursued picturesque photography by experimenting with printing techniques arose throughout South Africa. 24 In the twentieth century this photography adopted the label, "pictorialist photography." The genre became so ubiquitous that General Jan Smuts commented that "pictorial photography was considered by the average amateur as a hobby and that there were indeed vast opportunities in South Africa for pictorial work." 25 Famous pictorialists emerged, as did conflicts among them; yet the choice subject remained landscape and "native studies." For the purpose of this investigation I will concentrate on the latter.
"Native Photography" played a role in the establishment and maintenance of apartheid by marginalizing the demographically dominant Africans and by distancing them from whites. The main methodology for inverting the country's racial demographic and creating a center-periphery relationship of whites-blacks was by overwhelmingly portraying Africans as tribal and primitive, while diversely portraying whites. Sally Gaule of the University of Witwatersrand writes:
Colonial photography rendered Africans as stereotypes or 'specimens' emphasizing their exocitism and their difference from whites. On the other hand, photographic depictions of whites have mostly been placed beyond the preserve or limits of the stereotype. An outcome of this has been to place whiteness centrally and dominantly, as normative, and everything else as marginal or peripheral. 26
The attempt to marginalize Africans as primitive others is as apparent in omitted subjects of "native photography" as selected subjects. An example of this exoticization by omission is an image taken by H.W.D. Longen of African soldiers of the Delagoa Bay area in 1894. The absence of guns, tin spoons, enamel cups, heavy iron pots, padlocks and others symbols of modernity are of equal significance to the warriors' spears, shields and headdresses. 27
As time passed, interest in "native photography" increased and entire expeditions were assembled with the purpose of photographing Africans. One such expedition was the Denver African Expedition of 1925, which set out to photograph Bushmen. The Denver Expedition is significant for two reasons. First, it pictured Africans in a romantic light, and second it focused on one African people in particular, the Bushmen. 28 By not emphasizing the materially impoverished lifestyle of Africans and by portraying the Bushmen as capable of effectively governing themselves with tribal rituals the photographs from the Denver expedition can be seen as the photographic beginning of the justification of apartheid as "separate development." This photography unwittingly became a foundation for the argument that homelands allowed Africans to continue their idyllic lifestyle, and that South Africans "were far better off then those north of the Limpobo." 29 Furthermore, modernity and the Bushmen lifestyle are portrayed to be mutually exclusive. In the photographs from the Denver Expedition the symbols of modernity are the middle-class Americans themselves. The images from the expedition are characterized by the colonial paternalism discussed earlier, but the indicators of superiority shifted to modernity from spiritual enlightenment and anthropological assumptions.
By focusing on Bushmen, the Denver Expedition participated in the photographic tradition of documenting supposedly endangered African ethnic groups. The Bushmen, or Khoisan were a often featured as an exotic tribe on the verge of disappearance. Alfred Martin Cronin was an Irishman who photographed in South Africa from 1904 to 1965, systematically trying to record "every important tribe in the Union of South Africa." 30 Cronin's work was fueled by his belief that the Native was quickly disappearing. He is quoted as saying, "year by year the Natives were becoming more civilized, and any delay in the work would mean that valuable records of the Natives in their primitive state would be lost for all time." 31
Perhaps the people most victimized by the tribal emphasis of "native photography" were the Zulus. Native photographer Macquarrie Beggs provided insight into her understanding of her subject of, the Zulu, when she wrote:
Resplendent in skins and colourful headdresses of feathers from wild birds. As these warriors of yesterday lithely pass by, returning to their kraals amongst the distant hills, they will raise their ox-hide shields, and murmur a salutation to their ancestors. 32
Photographers such as Macquerrie Beggs not only exoticized the Zulu but also accentuated the stereotype of Zulus as warriors. A constant stream of photographic books about Zulu warfare has been published since 1860. 33 The pre-apartheid photographic focus on Zulus as warriors can be viewed as a harbinger of the divisive policies that promoted "black on black violence" in the Kwa-Zulu Natal in the 1980's and early 1990's. While the focus on certain ethnic groups such as the Khoisan and Zulu might appear to contradict the homogenized portrayal of Africans as "other," it does not. Photographic attention to a particular African ethnic group, such as the Khoisan tended to further depict Africans as an endangered species and therefore evolutionarily inferior, or in the case of Zulus as a people devoted to savage warfare and therefore uncivilized.
The apartheid government continued the unwritten policy of molding a photographic discourse that alienated and segmented the African people through its own publications and government agencies. One such sub-department was the State Information Office that grew out of the South Africa Information Bureau, which was created as an international propaganda organ during World War Two. The State Information Office constantly disseminated literature with photographs similar to those described above. 34 In 1990, filmmaker Peter Davis wrote, "The attempt to impose its image on the world has involved the government of South Africa in a multi-dimensional propaganda and disinformation campaign." 35 The South African government complemented its photographic propaganda with the enforcement of censorship legislation. Resistance photography has faced the dual challenge of subverting the photographic discourse established and perpetuated by colonial photographers, while circumventing laws of media control.
Censorship in South Africa
Censorship complemented the establishment of a hegemonic photographic discourse and substantially complicated the task of resistance photography. Like the colonial photographic propaganda, censorship was not unique to the Nationalist Party. Statutes regarding the control of publications have been on the books since 1829 when Ordinance 60 of Cape Colony Law proclaimed, "Any person composing, publishing etc. blasphemous or seditious libel tending, inter alia, to bring the Government of the Cape Colony into contempt is prohibited." 36 However, unlike the establishment of a colonial photographic discourse, censorship did not crystallize until apartheid. The Native Administration Act of 1927 and the Riotous Assemblies Act of 1930 both had empowered the government with broad ranging powers with censorship implications, but they were far from comprehensive and were poorly enforced. 37 The need for more effective censorship grew as publications that catered to the African audience emerged.
Visionary businessmen such as B.C. Paver, who founded the influential press group, Bantu Press (Pty) Ltd in 1932, financially backed publications in order to foster a market of non-white consumers through advertising. 38 Smaller African publications such as Imvo, Ilanga, Ikwezi, and Machochonono gave way to more highly organized and financially endowed papers such as Bantu World. 39 While this phenomenon can be seen as a perpetuation of paternalism, it also promoted the proliferation of progressive ideas, an alternative press, and a mainstream African audience. 40
When the Nationalists came to power in 1948 they were resolved to root out the emergent alternative/critical press. Legislation that further curtailed rights of expression poured through the parliament. Ten federal acts with censorship implications were passed between 1950 and 1959. 41 Much of the legislation used terms similar to those used in the Customs Act of 1955, which put severe limits on the importation of "goods which are indecent or obscene or on any ground whatsoever objectionable." 42 The definition of those words was left to the Chairman of the Interior and later to the Publications Board and the Board of Censors, who were consistently unsympathetic to appeals and highly sensitive about the meaning of those terms when reporting on the status of "undesirable publications." 43 The arguments the Nationalist government offered in favor of squelching dissent predictably included the harmful influence of pornography and national security, which was always tied to the allegedly brewing communist plot in South Africa. Some arguments calling for protection from pornography argued with conservative values, sometimes bordering on absurdity. A speech made by Walter Sanders at the South African Association of Arts at the University of Pretoria in 1973 argued for stricter control of the press because pornography was responsible for South Africa's loss to England in rugby that year. 44
The arguments for censorship as a necessary means to stop a brewing communist plot, on the other hand, were alarming. One of the landmark pieces of legislation concerning censorship was the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950. Alex Hepple makes the case that the definition of communism was so wide that it allowed the government to label almost all dissenters communists and usurp their right to express themselves. 45 Hepple cited Advocate Molteno who said:
If therefore an individual advocates any reform in public or private, which is calculated (i.e. likely) to lead to disturbance or disorder in its achievement, if an attempt to achieve it were made, he advocates "communism" and thereby commits an offence. 46
Anybody who was progressive, liberal, affiliated with a trade union or any other facet of the opposition was scrutinized as a potential communist and all of the publications they possessed, distributed or produced were subject to censorship. The most famous case of this was the Treason Trial, where Nelson Mandela and other leaders of the anti-apartheid movement were charged with violation of the Suppression of Communism Act. 47 All of the writings of the Treason Trial convicts, such as Govan Mbeki's South Africa: The Peasant's Revolt , soon became banned. 48
The negative press from the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 (where security forces killed sixty-seven Africans and injured 186 more), coupled with news of the Watts and Harlem riots in the United States, provided the South African government with ample incentive to strictly enforce censorship legislation. 49 The hope that a sensible judiciary would temper the government's inclination to silence criticism was crushed in 1963 when the parliament passed the Publications and Entertainment Act abolishing the right of appeal to the courts. 50
A major test of the government's enforcement capabilities was the Black Consciousness movement that began in 1968. The Black Consciousness movement, a resistance movement based on the idea of African empowerment and initiated by student activists, was handled leniently at first by the government. 51 However, once it began to publish, it was faced with the Nationalists' full wrath. The Union of Black Journalists (UBJ) published the UBJ Bulletin, a publication dedicated to "a wide range of broad social and political news and commentary." 52 The UBJ Bulletin, considered by scholars of the South African press to be representative of Black Consciousness, was banned after only two issues in 1975. 53
In response to the public relations disaster of the Soweto uprising of 1976, the government expanded its censorship legislation by amending the Publications Act. The revised Publications Act closed loopholes such as exemptions based on certain technical, scientific and religious grounds, and by expanding repressive enforcement beyond publishers and editors to individual journalists. 54 After the uprising itself the security police intimidated journalists by "taking down their names; confiscating press cards and car keys; ordering journalists to report to police stations; question sessions; arrests; detentions and assaults." 55 Intimidating and harassing journalists became the premier censorship tactic of the government, crescendoing to the states of emergency in the mid 1980's.
The Steyn Commission of 1981 recommended that all journalists must be registered, with their license constantly contingent on what they wrote. While that recommendation was not acted upon, it provided the basis for the repression of journalists during the states of emergency that began in 1986. 56 South African journalists became embroiled in the conflicts they were reporting on by way of assault, detention and murder. The following journalists are but a few who suffered from the military editing of the government: George D'Ath - murdered on June 10, 1986; Brian Sokutu - detained in June of 1986; and editor of New Nation ; Zwelakhe Sisulu - detained December 12, 1986. 57
During the late 1980's and early 1990's the Nationalist government had to walk a fine line between waging an "internal war" and presenting itself to the international community as an open democratic society. 58 Writings of prominent members of the opposition became unbanned to falsely advertise the democratization of South Africa while the most brutal repression South Africa had ever seen was taking place in the townships. There was no censorship of the disturbances perpetrated by the African National Congress (ANC). As a tactic to retard mounting international pressure, the Nationalists played to the soft-spots of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and seized every opportunity to portray South Africa as an anti-communist stalwart in a key geographic location. 59
The Nationalists maintained strict censorship control until the very end despite the gradual disassembly of apartheid. While most organizations were unbanned in 1990, the National Party refused to ease its grip on control of the media. In 1992 the Minister of the Publications Control Board (PCB) argued that the PCB must be maintained in order to control the flow of Communist literature into South Africa. 60 Despite arguments against censorship in the 1990's denouncing the Board's inconsistency and ineffectiveness by insiders such as consecutive ex-Chairmen of the Publications Appeal Board, Kobus Van Rooyen and Lammie Snyman, racist censorship continued until the election of Nelson Mandela as president in 1994.
Censorship and Photography
While the South African government's legislation primarily targeted the print media and political literature, it consistently included clauses that indicated an awareness of the importance of controlling images as well. The Entertainments Act of 1931, which targeted films, photographs and public performances, elaborated on what was considered objectionable:
(g) scenes containing reference to controversial or international politics.
(l) scenes representing antagonistic relations of capital and labor.
(i) scenes tending to disparage public characters.
(q) pugilistic encounters between Europeans and Non-Europeans.
(r) scenes of intermingling of Europeans and Non-Europeans. 61
The Customs Act of 1955 that tightly controlled the importation of undesirable literature highlighted "lithographic and photographic material" as subject to scrutiny. 62 Publications containing photographs that were deemed obscene or indecent were confiscated and the owner or publisher or editor could be fined and imprisoned. 63
Fear of objectionable imagery increased after the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, the first landmark of mass repression in the liberation struggle. Peter Davis describes the scant two and a half minutes of film of the moments just after the Sharpeville massacre:
There are bodies of women and men on the ground and a man wounded in the leg sitting up, a women being helped away. What's most striking is the police. Some stand around holding their weapons. Others direct black police in carrying the bodies to waiting vans. None of the white police are helping to carry the black bodies. One policeman, in a special affront to decency considering the occasion, carries a sjambok, a huge leather whip. These were the images that at that moment defined South Africa, defined apartheid to the world. 64
Film was not the only condemning imagery of the massacre; still cameras captured the repression before the film crews arrived. 65 Some of the gruesome photographs taken were included in Shooting At Sharpeville, which was promptly banned in South Africa. 66 Published in England in 1961, Shooting At Sharpeville not only contained images of police unfazed by the carnage holding sjamboks, but also live action photographs of people fleeing gunfire and the police in the act of shooting. Those images tarnished the Nationalist government's image irreparably and the government tried to ensure that such a public relations disaster would not happen again. 67
The South African government's assault on objectionable images can be seen in the ever-increasing amount of restrictive legislation and harsher enforcement of that legislation. The Prisons Act of 1959 prohibited the publishing of prisoners' images. 68 In 1967, the parliament passed the Indecent or Obscene Photographic Matter Act, which ostensibly targeted pornography, but was used to stop the publication of other "undesirable" images. 69
The crackdown on individual journalists following the Soweto uprising of 1976 increased the repression of photographers. 70 The photograph was a coveted item for the security police. Resistance photographer Alfred Kumalo tells a story about running from police and handing his film off to a white reporter because:
If [the police] get the film, they can take it and develop it and identify one of the people in the crowd from their files, or from their familiarity with activists. Then they go find him, and beat him up until he names some of the other people in the photos. Then they go to them, beat them up, and get some more names, and in this way they make a sweep. If they can do it from our photos, they don't have to bother with infiltrating the meeting themselves and trying to photograph everyone there, or with the bad publicity they get if they raid the meeting. 71
Film confiscation, camera destruction, and darkroom raids were complemented by incarceration and intimidation of photographers. One prolific pioneer of resistance photography, Peter Magubane, over the course of his photographic career was put in solitary confinement for 586 days, had his nose broken, and shot multiple times with rubber bullets. 72 Photography's tendency to increase the state's repression was one of its greatest contributions to the liberation struggle.
Photographic repression, like most other forms of repression, reached its zenith during the states of emergency of the 1980's and early 1990's. A government gazette in 1986 declared:
No person shall without the prior consent of the Commissioner or of a member of a security force serving as a commissioned officer in that force take any photograph or make or produce any television recording, film recording, drawing or other depiction -- (a) of any unrest or security action or of any incident occurring in the course thereof, including the damaging or destruction of property or the injuring or killing of persons, or (b) of any damage or destroyed property or injured or dead persons or other visible signs of violence at the scene where unrest or security action is taking place or has taken place or of any injuries sustained by any person in or during unrest or security action. 73
However, even at its height censorship could not halt the creation and dissemination of revolutionary images. As the degree of repression increased so did photographers' creativity in avoiding the censors. Alfred Kumalo wore large African shirts so that he could clandestinely unload film from his camera when anticipating an encounter with the police. Each photographer was forced to devise his or her own personal strategy, according to their means and the circumstances. 74 Here race played a substantial role. Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva, famous white photojournalists who covered the violent end to apartheid wrote:
Black photographers had the language and cultural skills and contacts in black communities that allowed them greater insight and access, unlike the whites, who hardly ever understood even one of the nine major black languages. But black photo-journalists were much more prone to harassment by the police - no white photographer was ever detained for 18 months in solitary as Magubane had been. 75
Resistance photography changed photographic subject and style according to the degree of photographic censorship. The evolution of resistance photography's subject and style, along with resistance photography's contributions to the liberation struggle will follow in the next two chapters.
In summary, resistance photographers had to subvert a long established colonial photographic discourse while circumventing the enforcement of stringent censorship laws. The argument I present in the following two chapters, that resistance photographers successfully contributed to the liberation struggle, is rooted in the contextual understanding presented above.
In an effort to counter the capital flight and other effects of South Africa's stained image, the government not only intensified its propaganda campaign, but also its censorship of images. South Africa took out its frustrations with the world's condemnation on the foreign press, increasing the difficulties in acquiring a press card and the restrictions on carriers of press cards. 76 The government even went so far as accusing foreign photographers of staging photographs as part of an international communist conspiracy. 77