PROMISES & LIES | THE ANC, EXILE & THE PROJECT OF FREEDOM

11 May - 3 June, 2017 | FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg

 

PROMISES & LIES | THE ANC, EXILE & THE PROJECT OF FREEDOM

Curated by Siona O'Connell, in collaboration with the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD)

The years 1989-1991 marked a world in transition, with revolutions in the Eastern Bloc, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in South Africa the dismantling of apartheid. Events critical to the latter transition – from white minority rule to multiracial democracy –included the unbanning of organisations like the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan African Congress (PAC), the return of political exiles, the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, and the initiation of political negotiations in the country.

As with that period, the past three years have signaled in South Africa a certain turning-point – a critical shift, charged by student lead protests aimed at forms of institutionalised racism and the slow pace of transformation in universities; the increasing proliferation of service-delivery protests across the country; and in general, a growing disenchantment with the social imaginaries of ‘Rainbowism’ and the ‘New South Africa’.In addition to this, charges of corruption, mismanagement and even state-capture have brought Government and the integrity of the ANC into disrepute.

 

Taken by award-winning British photographer Laurie Sparham, and presented by curator and filmmaker Dr Siona O’Connell, the photographs in this exhibition chronicle the experience of ANC exiles living in Tanzania and Zambia from 1989-1990. Accompanied by a new and provocative documentary by O’Connell, likewise titled Promises & Lies – The ANC, Exile & the Project of Freedom, the exhibition offers viewers a chance to consider the personal and familial sacrifices of political exile, the promise of freedom that was its aspiration, and these in relation to a current landscape of crisis and failure in which we, as ‘new South Africans’, find ourselves complicit. The images compel us to think about links and traces, aspirations and accountability – and, in the interests of an as-of-yet unrealised freedom, difficult questions we must ask of history and its resonances in the present.


All photographs courtesy Laurie Sparham