Photo essay by South African photographer Thabiso Sekgala
Homeland is the culmination of an exploration of memory, place and interrelated self-imaging. It is based on the former homelands; areas defined by the apartheid government in South Africa for the purposes of confining, defining and disempowering people. Sekgala is interested in the intricate residues of belonging and the nostalgia that people developed for this fraught system, and at the same time their understanding beyond it. Homelands were “independent areas” that the Apartheid government developed to assign and restrict black South Africans to ethno-linguistic areas as part of the ideology of separate development. It limited black South Africans access to land and resources and controlled their access and rights to urban spaces. Sekgala trails the peripheral communities especially youth in the former KwaNdebele and Bophuthatswana to photograph themes of faded and abandoned commerce, bureaucracy and the connections that people still hold to this. The work speaks of a marginal integration into a larger culture and economy; the legacy of an artificial isolation. As part of a post-Apartheid photography generation, Sekgala is interested in making connections to his own past, memory and questions of belonging. He records on film; a process that slows time down, a yearning for materiality and tools, a set-up of intimate relationships. Through this he questions the changes in South Africa since democracy, but it also comments on the nostalgia that photography in South Africa holds for the past.