Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life at Museum Africa, Johannesburg

Museum Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa
13 Feb 2014 - 29 Jun 2014

After acclaimed runs in Munich, Milan, and New York, Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life opens in Johannesburg at Museum Africa on the 13th of February.

It is an encyclopedic view of apartheid and photographic practice and represents the culmination of more than a decade of research supported by the International Center of Photography in New York, which organized the exhibition. Rise and Fall of Apartheid features the work of more than 70 South African photographers and artists, including over 800 images, 27 films, and a book.

Mark Lubell, Executive Director of the International Centre of Photography, says the show’s culmination in South Africa is fitting. Lubell explains: “The exhibition celebrates South African photographers, and many of the images come from the rich collection of Museum Africa. We are excited that the final presentation will be at Museum Africa, and we thank them and all our partners for bringing this exhibition to Johannesburg on the 20th anniversary of the nation’s democracy. ICP has supported South African photographers since our earliest days, with Magubane’s South Africa in 1978 and South Africa: The Cordoned Heart in 1986. We are proud to continue to showcase their important work.”

The exhibition is a field of narratives about diverse photographic practice from colonial ethnographic studies to “insurrectional” image-making during apartheid, with some reflection on contemporary, post-apartheid views.

In the exhibition’s accompanying book, in an essay titled “Bureaucratization of memory”, South African curator and writer Khwezi Gule notes: “Maybe museums or memorial sites of the future need to be a lot less driven by curators and more by a participatory approach to the varied interpretations of the past. Implied in this proposition is the issue of how sites of memory can become more dynamic and evolving spaces that can account for different, inconvenient, and discomforting counter-narratives, the mutability of memory, present-day contestations over power and privilege, the means to life, as well as symbolic representations, instead of acting as monoliths to ideology and the prevailing social order. Perhaps that is the best guarantee that the horrors of the past will not be repeated.”

Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life is fertile ground for debate across issues that will see the six-month long exhibition and its accompanying media participating in a national conversation about the photographers—some unknown, some deceased, some still practicing here and abroad. The curatorial themes addressed by the exhibition will focus on select historic milestones during the liberation struggle and apartheid oppression and the difficulties we confront around the mythologising and commodification of our history’s visual landscape. In pursuit of a better life, the words of Darren Newbury, another one of the books essayists, ring true: “It is toward a more complete interpretation of the medium’s significance that photographic historians should seek not only to understand the value of apartheid-era photography to memory and justice, but also its contribution to the imagination of South African society beyond apartheid, a project that is still in progress.”


11 February 2014 at 15:30 for 16:00 at Museum Africa

12 February 2014 at 18:00 at Museum Africa

13 February 2014 – 29 June 2014
Open Tuesday to Sunday between 9:00 and 17:00

Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life is curated by Okwui Enwezor, with Rory Bester. It is made possible with support from Mark McCain and Caro MacDonald/Eye and I, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the ICP Exhibitions Committee, National Endowment of the Arts, Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts, Deborah Jerome and Peter Guggenheimer, and from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation in honour of 30 years of committed ICO service by Willis E. Hartshorn.

This edition of the exhibition is brought to Johannesburg by the South African Department of Arts and Culture and the Ford Foundation, supported by the City of Johannesburg, Museum Africa, the European Union, the Goethe-Institut, the Austrian Embassy, the British Council, EUNIC, the German Embassy, the French Institute of South Africa, the Swiss Embassy, and the University of the Witwatersrand.


Okwui Enwezor is Director of Haus der Kunst, Munich and an Adjunct Curator at the International Center of Photography, and was recently named Director of the 2015 Venice Biennale. Before joining Haus der Kunst, Enwezor was Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice President at San Francisco Art Institute. He served as the Artistic Director of La Triennale 2012 at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, and as the Artistic Director of the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1997), Documenta11 (2002), and 7th Gwangju Biennale (2008), among other international exhibitions. Enwezor was the Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor at Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. And, he is the founding publisher and editor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art.

Rory Bester is an art historian and critic, as well as a curator and documentary filmmaker. Based at the Wits School of Arts in Johannesburg, his teaching and research areas include archive and museum practice, curatorial studies, exhibition histories, migration and diaspora studies, photographic histories, post-colonialism, and post-war South African art. He regularly writes art criticism for the Mail and Guardian newspapers, as well as for Art South Africa, Camera Austria, and Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art. Bester has curated and co-curated a number of exhibitions in Denmark, Germany, South Africa, Sweden, and the United States.




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