Andy Stubbings, on Africa
I spent a lot of time in Africa this year, for work and for personal reasons. Over the course of the year, I found it harder to make generalizations about “Africa” without wincing slightly; it’s a bit like talking about “America” (both North and South). So I really enjoyed this spoof ‘Africa for Norway’ campaign. It’s a bit laboured, but makes an effective point about the dangers of vague and unexamined generalizations about arguably the most diverse continent on earth.
Andrew Curry, on Ernest Cole
I thought I knew the political and cultural history of the anti-apartheid struggle well, having followed it closely during my teens and twenties. But I realised at the Barbican’s sprawling exhibition of ’60s and ’70s photography that I knew nothing of Ernest Cole, the black photographer who was the first to document the petty humiliations and the institutional cruelty of South Africa’s legalised racism. Cole changed his name and his history to qualify as “Coloured” rather than “Black” under South Africa’s Pass Laws, which gave him the freedom to travel. In the early ’60s he became the country’s first black freelance photographer, filming – often illicitly – life under apartheid; his work was published as a book, House of Bondage, in 1967. Speaking truth to power comes with a price: the book was banned in South Africa and by the time it came out Cole had exiled himself in the United States, where he died in poverty in 1990, living just long enough to see Mandela released from jail. But thanks to his white South African contemporary, David Goldblatt, also represented at the Barbican, the eyes of the world are watching now.