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‘Rise and Fall of Apartheid’ Photography Exhibition Explores the 50-Year Old Civil Rights Struggle

An early South African apartheid protest during ‘Treason Trial’ captured by an unknown photographer, Dec. 1956.

On view from September 14, 2012 – January 6, 2013 at the International Center of Photography, Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life offers an unprecedented and comprehensive historical overview of the pictorial response to apartheid that has never been undertaken by any other museum.

Through its images, this exhibition explores the significance of the 50-year civil rights struggle, from how apartheid defined and marked South Africa’s identity from 1948 to 1994, to the rise of Nelson Mandela, and finally its lasting impact on society. Curated by Okwui Enwezor with Rory Bester and based on more than six years of research, the exhibition examines the aesthetic power of the documentary form – from the photo essay to reportage, social documentary to photojournalism and art – in recording, analyzing, articulating, and confronting the legacy of apartheid and its effect on everyday life in South Africa.
Apartheid, the compound Dutch word meaning separate (apart) and neighborhood (heid), was the political platform of Afrikaner nationalism before and after World War II. It created a political system designed specifically to promote racial segregation and enshrine white domination.
In 1948, after the surprise victory of the Afrikaner National Party, apartheid was introduced as official state policy and organized across a widespread series of legislative programs. Over time, the system of apartheid grew increasingly ruthless and violent towards Africans and other non-white communities. It not only transformed the modern political meaning of citizenship, it invented a wholly new society in both fact and law. The result was a reorganization of civic, economic, and political structures that penetrated even the most mundane aspects of social existence – from housing, public amenities, and transportation, to education, tourism, religion, and businesses. Apartheid transformed institutions, maintaining them for the sole purpose of denying and depriving Africans, Coloureds, and Asians of their basic civil rights.
A central premise of this exhibition is that South African photography, as we know it today, was essentially invented in 1948. The exhibition argues that the rise of the Afrikaner National Party to political power and its introduction of apartheid as the legal foundation of governance changed the pictorial perception of the country…Read more: Art Daily

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