For Photo London Digital 2020 Goodman Gallery presents a selection of works from Shirin Neshat, Sue Williamson, David Goldblatt, Mikhael Subotzky & Patrick Waterhouse, and Lindokuhle Sobekwa.
Neshat and Williamson occupy influential and highly respected positions in the international art world, not only for their formidable artistic talents but also for their contributions as cultural workers.
Neshat and Williamson's respective socially-based practices uncover hidden histories and engage with marginalised lived experiences; constructing expanding visual archives which claim legitimate, visible spaces for their subjects. By proposing these different modes and perspectives of representation, their works serve as prime examples of the nexus of art and social activism.
Presented at Photo London Digital is Neshat’s iconic 'Women of Allah' series, which examine the complexities of women’s identities, both through their personal and public lives. These works will be shown alongside images from 'The Book of Kings', an allegorical account of the uprising throughout the Middle East known subsequently as the Arab Spring, and more recent work called 'Offerings', a series designed for a wine label with text from Persian
poet Omar Khayyam.
Williamson's 'The Last Supper, Manley Villa' is a series of photographs documenting the final days of one family’s home before it was demolished. These images, selected for Goodman Gallery’s presentation, illustrate the effects of the Group Areas Act, a proclamation made in 1966 by the apartheid government, which meant certain areas, such as District Six in Cape Town, were marked for whites only leading to the dislocation in that instance of 60,000 residents of mixed race. In the photographs, Williamson captured Naz and Harry Ebrahim celebrating Eid with their family and friends at their home, Manley Villa, for the last time on 2 August 1981. The last photograph in the portfolio was taken in 2008 and records the empty spot where Manley Villa once stood.
'Fietas', a series by David Goldblatt, similarly documents the destructive effects of the Group Areas Act.
In the photographer’s own words, “In 1950 the apartheid government in South Africa passed the Group Areas Act, under which residential and business areas in cities, towns and villages were to be reserved for different ethnic groups. In 1956 Pageview/Fietas was declared a White Group Area. The Indians were to be removed to Lenasia, a Group Area reserved for them 40 kilometres beyond the city – Fietas was about five from the city centre. Fietas was a small place with narrow streets and compact houses, heavily overcrowded, but with a strong sense of community.
Rich and poor, Black and White had come from many miles to shop there. Three generations had grown and lived there. Using every loophole in the law the people of Fietas fought against removal. But eventually in 1977 police with dogs moved in and except for a very few, the last of the Indians of Fietas were forced out. Shops and houses were destroyed and new houses were built for low-income Whites. These photographs were taken in 1976 and 1977, the last years of Fietas.”
Work by Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse, as well as Lindokuhle Sobekwa, continue the thread of Williamson and Goldblatt’s narratives, delving into post-aparthied South African life.
'Ponte City' is a powerful series of photographs documenting a 54- storey apartment building in downtown Johannesburg, completed by Subotzky & Waterhouse between 2008 and 2014. Built for white sophisticates during the heyday of apartheid, Ponte City proved more attractive to young people and immigrants. During the political
transition in the 1990s it became a refuge for black newcomers from the townships and rural areas, and then for immigrants from elsewhere in Africa. Soon Ponte was the prime symbol of urban decay in Johannesburg. In 2007, developers evicted half the tenants and gutted the apartments, but their redevelopment scheme soon
At this time, the artists started getting to know the remaining tenants, taking portraits and photographing life in the half-occupied block. They collected a large archive of documents and photographs from abandoned apartments, and meticulously photographed every door, window and television set in the building.
'Ponte City' presents a complex narrative about the social history of Johannesburg, interrogating the relationship between buildings, ideologies and human movement.
Sobekwa is a South African photographer born in 1995 in Katlehong, Johannesburg. In his work he focuses on creating intimate relationships with his subjects and his projects often span years as he builds trust. His most recent body of work focuses on ideas of home and the fragmentation of identity and belonging.
In 2018, Sobekwa was awarded a grant from the Magnum Foundation Fund to continue with his long term project Nyaope. He is also currently working on a collaborative project with French Photographer Cyprien Clément-Delmas about the community of Daleside in South Africa. This series will be published by Gost in 2021 and has been supported by the Rubis Mécénat Foundation. Sobekwa joined Magnum Photos in 2018 and became an associate member in 2020. He participates in a variety of photography related activities with the agency, including assignments in Kenya and South Africa, as well as giving lectures about his work and photography in South Africa for audiences in various European and American cities.