Since the dramatic fall of apartheid in 1994, Johannesburg has emerged as the artistic capital of sub-Saharan Africa. Collectively, the artists in this hour use their work to empower marginalized communities, reexamine history, and pursue their visions for South Africa’s future.
The “Johannesburg” episode features David Goldblatt, Nicholas Hlobo, Zanele Muholi, and Robin Rhode.
- You are not alone.
This is about us
and many others.
I can't write this visual history alone.
We're doing it together.
- It's only a matter of time before
I do a piece on this wall.
It's only a matter of time.
- Split. Split. Split. Come on, split.
I've been working here for about eight years.
I think the wall is fantastic
in terms of its scale.
There's an amazing crack in the surface,
which appears in all of my works.
I developed from a three-man crew.
that would do pieces around Johannesburg
to this location here, which then developed
to a much larger crew of ten persons,
consisting of guys that are from this particular area.
Over the last year or so, some of my team have vanished.
Two are currently in jail.
Kevin here is Director of Drawing.
Producing a work of art is easy.
It's surviving day-to-day life
that's the difficult part here.
This is the shoemaker.
Shoemaker has been working with us for almost two years.
Sharp, shoemaker, sharp, sharp!
What's happening? - All right, big man.
How's it going? How are you, bro?
There is where I was raised.
This is where I grew up.
Stand by, coconut!
Stand by blade. Stand by. Unwrap boxes please.
There will be a handover taking place this afternoon.
To form this camaraderie, to form this team,
we're going military.
- We're German.
- We're art soldiers.
Discipline is a huge factor here.
can you work? - Yeah.
Everyone's coming with their own personal issues,
and when we work the issues
need to be left on the pavement.
Who votes for Randy in?
- I got two hands for you.
- Welcome aboard. - Welcome aboard, Randy.
- Welcome, soldier.
- Welcome, soldier.
- Thanks, guys. Let's push.
Let's finish this job.
My team are paid on a daily rate.
But it's beyond just cash,
it gives them a sense of status.
As somebody that is part of something
really positive and productive.
Your contribution, no matter what little it is,
So I used to play football here.
I played under 12s, under 14s and under 16s.
I must say, when I was younger
the conditions were a lot better.
There's not much facilities for the youth to engage with.
So they resort to other modes of spending their free time
and that's a problem.
You have a beautiful park in this area,
but opposite the park is, like,
one of the biggest drug gang wars in Johannesburg.
You know, when I'm not here,
this also creates a huge vacuum for
the team that I work with.
I'm not sure...
how productive they will be if I'm not around,
or do they have a...
an employment of some sort.
So, um, yeah. It's a major issue.
It's only a matter of time
before I do a piece on this wall
It's only a matter of time.
Strip the van please, unload. ASAP.
As a school kid we had a form of hazing,
in the toilets of the school.
We used to steal the chalk from the classrooms,
draw objects onto the toilet walls
and force young kids to interact and engage
with the drawings.
To ride a bike,
or to blow out a candle.
I think that kind of planted the seed
for my practice as a young artist.
I used to create these performances for myself
and for the camera, where I would just draw
an object on the wall and interact with it.
One of the first objects I drew was the bicycle.
And then it became a television,
then it became a chair.
and it just began to extend itself further and further.
We use humor as a mode of survival,
and we use play as a means to destabilize
various dominant structures.
Wall touch up green, here.
In Johannesburg, there is no art education whatsoever.
Stand by, shot one!
Ah, beautiful, Kevin!
So how do we engage with minimalism?
Thank you very much.
I would reference and rework
in a kind of humor orientated way.
Feet up higher. Higher. Yes!
Stand by, bike. Stand by, bike.
The Institute For Quality.
Building South Africa
child by child.
So doppelganger is a kind of body double
to represent me in the works.
Arm lower. Yeah.
The doppelganger also acts as a stand in for the viewer.
He's standing on the bike, lying on the bike,
never touching the surface of the ground.
Trying to grapple with gravity in a way.
I'm trying to escape time.
Look up. Yeah. Two.
This is why I've been so fascinated with geometry.
Simple geometric form allows for kind of transcendence
over time, over space, over geography.
A lot of preparatory drawings
take place in my studio in Berlin.
Berlin just gives me the breathing space
to internalize what I've created in South Africa.
I first came to Berlin in 2001.
I had a residency.
I met a beautiful woman that eventually became my wife.
We have two sons.
My family is what roots me to Berlin.
I think that being here has given me
a level of education that I've never, actually,
had in Johannesburg.
All those years ago I said that I would
school myself by reading magazines,
going to exhibitions, going to museums.
Berlin has given me that kind of
hands-on experience in understanding
different artistic movements
from the Bauhaus to Der Blaue Reiter.
I'm an artist that really loves art history.
When I think about the studio I get really...
Because it's luxury.
It's a great space to think.
But I have an army on the street in Johannesburg,
and my studio is a beautiful piece of architecture.
A street corner in Johannesburg
offers a lot more danger and risk.
And the danger and the risk becomes
a kind of subliminal effect on the energy of that work.
South Africa is a lot more vibrant,
a lot more colorful.
- I'm good friends with Kevin
and Kevin has worked with Robin so many times before.
And I always just hear the stories of how amazing it is.
Yay, thank you so much.
And I see, like, the final product.
You guys are so cool.
Always wanted to work with him.
If I combine a performance
with what I'm drawing on the wall
that can lead to a visual language.
Today, the drawing's replaced
by a sculpture of children's jungle gyms
as a set for this particular performance piece.
- Given by you.
both: And we say.
- Sow the seed. - Paint the wall.
Be at home.
both: In our desert for all.
- I was inspired by the poet James Matthews
and Gladys Thomas.
Because the youth that they were referring to was myself
being born in the mid-1970's.
"Dedicated to all the children of South Africa,
who will become one family, brothers and sisters."
It's the first collection of poems
that was banned by the Apartheid government.
It speaks of the white fences in society.
Speaks about the city as a jungle.
Demarcated areas, identity and race,
and these ideas are playing out right now
on the streets of South Africa.
- Screams of pain fill the night air...
The poetry comes from two colored poets
and we're both mixed race.
Learning them and reciting them.
It's the most beautiful part about this whole process.
- It still relates to us now.
- But it's also harsh, I think.
Pieces of it.
It's something we want to play with, you know?
A beautiful land!
With beautiful mountains
and beautiful sea.
But not for me.
Come, take my hand.
Stop touring and go slumming with me.
both: Before your eyes.
- You see a jungle.
- See the white cages?
- With thousands of animals running wild.
- Look into their eyes.
- My work is so much focused around the aspect of youth
and we refer to the youth as the born frees.
- We say sow the seed. - Paint the wall.
- And the born frees don't have the same experiences
as my generation have
or the generation before me
of understanding the mechanisms of Apartheid.
So they are still trying to find themselves
and find a position for themselves in society.
What do you guys want to do?
You want to paint?
- Yeah, we can paint.
- When you give young people a sense of worth
you can really change
their own identity and sense of self...
And this is something that I try to communicate
to my young crew.
When I see the works exhibited on
a wall of a gallery of a museum
it's almost muted somehow.
But the energy and excitement of the process
is so intoxicating.
Stand by, photography!
It's why I always go back to the wall.
- The camera is a very strange instrument.
It demands, first of all, that you see coherently.
It makes it possible for you to enter into worlds,
and places, and associations
that would otherwise be very difficult to do.
Being a photographer is a wonderful thing, really.
I'm not tied to any place.
I can go and come as I like.
My childhood years in Johannesburg were very happy.
We enjoyed an enormous amount of freedom.
We would ride our bicycles all over the Randfontein Estates,
which was the gold mine around the town,
and we could explore the mines to a great degree.
Its brutal landscape;
it's very bare, bleak,
we don't have a sea, we don't have a big river.
We just had these rather dull and uninteresting spaces.
I think there was a kind of osmosis taking place in me.
I became organically related to the place.
On the one hand, I want to photograph the land.
in a very broad sense.
On the other hand,
I'm fascinated by our structures
as declarations of value.
I'm too late for this photograph.
The trees are already in leaf.
But I'm gonna try. Let's have a look.
It seems to me that the style of architecture
that is emerging to the north of Johannesburg
is a kind of aggressive materialism.
- Hi, how are you? - Hello.
- How are you? - All right, all right.
- In this country, because of the nakedness,
almost, of the struggles that took place
between black and white,
the structures that emerged were amazingly
clear demonstrations of value system.
White Afrikaner Protestant churches are those
that I think of particularly.
Their churches had these huge windows
and this mega-phonic structure.
Come the 1970's
the forces of liberation are coming down to South Africa,
increasingly impinging on Afrikaners.
So their new churches become defensive.
There are very few of them built
with piercings in the outer walls.
Public structures become
clear manifestations to self-image.
Look at this. Look at this.
but at least this has got a certain amount of movement.
That's a Hasselblad.
very expensive, beautifully built box.
My brother, Dan, would come back
from somewhere in the world,
and bring little miniature cameras.
He'd brought back from one of his voyages
a Contax camera.
The Contax was the Zeiss equivalent of the Leica.
It was a great camera.
But this particular one had been severely damaged.
I don't know what its history was during the war,
but when it eventually reached Randfontein
it was a very sick camera.
But I tried to do some photography with it.
When I matriculated in '48 I certainly had
a strong wish to become a magazine photographer.
"Life" and "Look" from America,
"Picture Post" from England,
were the window on the world for millions.
In 1952, I think it was,
the Apartheid government had begun to
put its ideology in place.
And one of the first steps was
to separate the races in public amenities.
I did a short strip of film
of a black man going up
and then being turned back by a black policeman.
He had been accustomed to taking
that route into the Johannesburg railway station,
and suddenly he was not allowed to.
So I sent a strip of those photographs to "Picture Post,"
to the editor.
I was politely rejected.
I tried to do a magazine story
about the men who worked on top of the mine dumps
around our town.
These men worked right through the year
every day and night, no matter what the conditions,
dealing with the waste
of the milling operation.
We were subjecting these men to a terrible existence.
It was freezing cold on the top of those dumps in winter.
Here's an old dump.
It's been covered in grass to keep down the dust.
Black miners could not rise beyond the level
of what were known as Boss Boys or Team Leaders.
Of course, they were not boys, they were men.
In order to rise above that level
you had to have a blasting certificate.
And this was a method that was used
by the white trade unions to ensure
that only whites could go into
the upper echelons of the mining hierarchy.
If one wanted to look at this society
you had to grasp the nature of white Afrikaner life
The Afrikaners were descended from the Dutch
and French, the Huguenot,
and German, Scotch,
early, early settlers in this country.
Small as that group was,
they determined a great deal of what happened here.
For them, their conquest of the tribes
that they encountered
were guided by God, the ineffable.
This became something that I had to deal with
as I saw it in a way that hadn't been done before.
During the 1930s,
the right wing Afrikaner movement
known as the Ossewabrandwag, was anti-Jewish.
Like many of my fellow Jewish friends,
I had a fear of Afrikaners from my childhood,
and yet felt the need to explore this.
These people really absorbed me.
They frightened me in their depth
of the fear of black people,
and yet at the same time, their ease with them.
I would be photographing an elderly couple
on one of these plots,
and a little black girl would walk into the parlor,
sucking her thumb,
and just stand there, watching me work.
And they would not say a word to her.
They didn't object and tell her to get out.
It was just accepted that she would come in and do that.
A common response from potential publishers was
"Where's the Apartheid?"
To me it was embedded, deep, deep, deep,
in the grain of those photographs.
People overseas simply didn't
grasp these extraordinary contradictions in our life.
But I was not interested in
trying to explain things to them.
We're heading into the center of Boksburg.
I photographed here in the winter of '79
and again in '80.
Instead of traveling the country
and photographing whites generally
I wanted to concentrate on this one community
and regard it as a microcosm
of white middle class life in South Africa,
and that's what I did.
This entire town was reserved for whites.
Black people came here only
if they had the right paper, a pass.
I began to look at these crowds
waiting at traffic lights to cross the road
and found them remarkably exposing of us.
Corner of Commissioner and Eloff.
We must go up one block.
This picture here was taken from where
I'm standing now of that shop there.
And I was probably standing here
when I took this picture.
I was excited by this winter light that we have.
It's very sharp and low angled.
These low buildings were, to me,
the quintessence of the world that I knew and grew up in.
There's nothing distinctive about them.
I don't think there is
a single picture in that whole collection
in which the subject is looking at the camera or me.
I wanted to disappear from the equation.
In Soweto and Hillbrow the photographs were
encounters between myself and the subject.
Instead of trying
to photograph life as an ongoing process,
I elected to photograph people as they were
in a formal way.
I was always insistent that the subject
would look at me, not at the camera.
In doing those portraits
I became aware of people's bodies
in a very emphatic way.
Arms and limbs, breasts, hips, necks,
Here is a whole drawer of 4x5s.
On my death my negatives, my contact prints,
and my working prints
would have gone to the University of Cape Town
where they have established
an archival facility for this purpose.
But after the burning of paintings
and the burning of some photographs
by the students in the university art collection,
the university appointed a committee of academics
and students to examine every piece of art
with a view to deciding whether to pulling out
or covering up
any artwork that they regarded
as potentially offensive to black students.
Well, I can't accept that kind of evaluation and...
and interference in the freedom of expression.
And if there are pieces of work in the art collection
that perhaps make other people uncomfortable
then let's exhibit them, hold debates.
I regard my work as one thing
that I will not allow to be compromised.
And I compromise every day
just by drawing breath in this country.
But today, under a democracy, I refuse to be complicit.
I canceled my contract.
And my stuff won't go to the University of Cape Town.
I don't think I've ever been bored with photography.
I've sometimes become extremely frustrated.
Look at this. Look at this.
But it's a life-absorbing process.
It absorbs me fully.
I've changed my mind about photographs
25, 30 years after I've taken them.
My problem is that I don't have
25 or 30 years to make up my mind now.
I've got to make up my mind much sooner.
I was doing photographs of the gold mines,
then I saw a reflection of myself.
So I just...
- Why are black lives so fascinating?
Why are we here?
Can I own my voice?
Can I own me?
Because my mother never had an opportunity
to own her own voice until she died.
There are a lot of beautiful humans
out there who get to be in covers of magazines.
And be loved dearly.
Why are ordinary people
only featured in any magazine when there's tragedy?
Why are there no images of queer people,
especially black people?
And yet people are told that you have the right to be.
Yes, Apartheid period had its own visuals.
Those were photography of resistance.
They're known, they're common, they're bloody.
I just wanted to produce images
that spoke to me as a person,
that still speak to me now.
I'm boiling inside.
Like any other great man,
I want to be counted in history.
I want to produce that history.
I want to basically say "This is me."
[singing in foreign language]
I photograph myself.
To remind thyself that you exist.
I'm born by Malawian father
and a Zulu mom.
We were eight siblings in all
and four of my siblings died.
Now we are four.
My mother worked so hard.
When my father died she had to take care of many of us.
I guess most of what I do is shaped by her life
and her way of doing things.
This is "Somnyama Ngonyama," a series.
What is important is the space that I occupy,
my being, my presence there.
And then the objects that are found within those settings.
Then those objects need to have a specific meaning.
This is the tube of a bicycle.
It's significant to most South Africans
who are fine-tuned with Apartheid history.
This was special dedicated to my sister
who then passed few days after the image was taken.
Most of the "Somnyama Ngonyama" images are Zulu titled
because Zulu is my language.
"Bona," which means "see,"
was taken in an old hotel in Charlottesville.
This says you were at this place
at this particular time and you survived
'cause nobody knows what might happen.
Talking about, like, life and death.
I had to go through a serious operation,
and I never thought that I would be alive.
I lost a lot of blood.
And the image that I took
is called "Julile."
Giving thanks for being alive
is very, very, very, very important to me.
Most of the time I go to locations where people live.
I was born in the township.
I like the vibe of the townships of Johannesburg.
People connect with their own spaces,
and they become comfortable,
if it's safe to be in those spaces.
So you just do a short introduction
and I just want to roll it.
You speak Zulu, or Sotho, or English?
So we do in three languages.
- Up or down? - Up. Up. Up. Up.
- Right here? - Yes. Yeah, cool.
- Okay, hi.
I am Ayanda Masina.
this is me four years ago.
And this is me now.
The people of Johannesburg are here to work.
Unlike in Cape Town and other cities,
we are here to hustle.
I photographed different LGBTI individuals,
risking my life.
When I started "Faced and Phases"
I just wanted to produce
a project that will live beyond us.
As people reach different stages in their lives
they get to be documented
and they share for the LGBTI community.
It's a lifetime project.
The book supposed to come out in volumes.
The next publication will be out next year,
which then marks another period in our lives.
I am a member of the community.
We hardly find images that speaks
of love and joys of LGBTI individuals.
So then it becomes the issue of ownership.
I told myself that I'll do better
than any other outsider to project our lives.
I always say to people,
"it's one thing to have the constitution.
"It's something else to have the document
that speaks to that constitution."
You can't say people have a right to exist without
visuals that are produced by us on us.
A simple image of a queer being in space,
"Face and Phases" becomes one of those important documents
that comes out from Africa.
One of the first individuals that I work with
happened to be a friend.
And her name is Busi Sigasa.
She was a 25-year-old who was a curative rape survivor.
And she succumbed to HIV complications
and died in 2007 in March.
I'm always reminded of her work
and contributions that she made;
daring and speaking out
on hate crimes, on curative rapes,
on all that was unjust.
She'll always be remembered.
Every year I try to capture a nice picture of Collen.
Collen has his own series documenting himself
and his community.
And also he's teaching
photography to youth in this township.
- These are our new students
from different township.
- We're always interested in training
black women who believe in
black media diversity, media ownership.
So that's really what's the driving force for me.
- The crew that I work with.
It's people that I pay for the education
or sponsor for their causes.
And most of them,
they are graduates from Market Photo Workshop,
which is a school I attended.
Which was started by David Goldblatt
who later became my mentor.
And he becomes one of the most
important human beings in my life.
'Cause he finance for my education.
So I have learned from David to say sharing is caring.
So I'm doing a follow up with Kat on "Brave Beauties."
[speaking foreign language]
- "Brave Beauties" is a project
that looked specifically
at trans women who are beauty queens.
My history of documenting beauty pageants is personal.
20 years ago, exactly now,
I entered a contest and I won.
I wanted to reminisce
and go back to that space.
And I produce portraits of myself
on residency in Amsterdam.
Beauty pageants and drag shows,
they create space that safe for LGBTI individuals
to express themselves,
which is not what they usually do on a daily basis.
Miss Divine is one of the most important humans in our lives
for people who like drag shows here.
I recognize drag queens as cultural activists
because they educate with their performance.
She's wearing red high heel shoes
and a Zulu beaded skirt
which is meant to be worn by a woman coming of age.
The Africans, we're proud of our tribes,
and some of us still stick to the tradition.
I always stress to each and every person
that I photograph to look good.
'Cause you'll be seen by many people.
I work with people who are partaking in
a historical project.
Who are informing many individuals,
including me, about their lives.
So it's very important for me that I respect
the fact that they've trusted me enough to be there.
I work with participants.
They are no subjects in my photography.
[cheers and applause]]
- Welcome, everybody.
I'm still recovering from the party yesterday.
Zanele is just absolutely
the most craziest person I've ever met.
Who made me do even more crazier things
than I've ever done in my life.
But I have to say from the bottom of my heart
thank you so much.
This is a great way end off Woman's Month.
crowd: Yes! - Yes.
- ♪ Whatever you want
- ♪ Whatever you need
crowd: ♪ Oh, anything you want done, baby ♪
♪ I'll do it naturally
- Everybody sing!
crowd: ♪ I'm every woman
♪ It's all in me
- History could easily be projected and produced
by those who live it.
- We work speaking resistant, speaking existence.
- That was beautiful.
That was beautiful.
- We're not done yet.
- From my memories as a child,
I always drew.
Then I'd find myself constructing things.
I'd always show my grandmother and one of my aunts
and they'll say to me, [indistinct].
[indistinct] means a creative person.
Even though I come from a culture where men
are very important, I grew up in a household
where there's no male figure.
I was brought up by my maternal grandmother.
She was a tough cookie,
and I'm grateful to have had her.
All forces, good or bad,
or somewhere in between, will be anxiously waiting
for the daring fool that hopes to venture
onto the new land.
Don't be scared, just enjoy the cruise.
I think in English,
which was the reason that I found myself trying
to go into using the Xhosa language.
To remind myself of where I come from,
When I was invited by the Uppsala Art Museum in Sweden,
I decided the title of the exhibition
should be "Zawelela ngale."
Which is two words that refer
to going to the other side.
In the world, there's debates around boundaries,
America is hoping to build its own wall.
At times, you have to physically be on your belly,
crawling, almost like a snake, to go under fences.
But I said, "That's not
what we're really talking about."
We're talking about something more superior
than that crossing.
Going across Zawelela Ngale
could be a psychological or spiritual crossing,
or intellectual going across
to the other side of the field.
I grew up on the Transkei, the former Xhosa homeland
There's only Xhosa people
and a handful of white people and coloured people.
Even though it was part of the apartheid architecture,
somehow we're safe
from the harshness of apartheid.
I got to experience apartheid firsthand
when I moved to Johannesburg, where the difference
was being made very clear.
So I'm looking at myself in relation to the world.
Being South African, being black,
being Xhosa, being a gay man,
being a man,
and I'm looking at the various cultures
that has brought this country to where it is now.
If you think of the Dutch influence,
the British influence.
I had to unpack what symbolism
I could use to refer to that.
See, there's a difference there.
See, now when I pull that-- you see that?
It's still in--in position.
It's not this, it's not that.
That's where we want to be.
I somehow found a way of relating that
to the idea of a medical practitioner
in a surgical room.
When you have to heal someone,
you have to cut and remove the ailment,
and stitch them again to mend them.
In the process of nation-building,
you are inflicting pain in order to heal.
What is most important,
apart from the objects that we're making,
is that line that we cut.
The materials are there to add a layer
of the story that is being told.
[men chatting indistinctly]
- In the contemporary world,
cow hide goes into making our garments, our accessories.
We take their lives to make our lives easier
as human beings.
When there's a wedding ceremony,
the cows would be used as a dowry,
so they're valued.
Yeah, that's good.
It's our form of currency,
[upbeat instrumental music]
- This is our sewing room.
And this is where we make our costumes.
Um, we'll start with this piece.
This was for my show at the ICA in Boston.
The, uh--I did a performance
that was titled, "Thoba, utsale umnxeba"
Meaning, "Lower yourself and make a call."
That world could also mean, "Draw a cord."
Humble yourself, and redeem yourself
so that you're more respectful.
In the beginning,
there was a time when we didn't dress.
- Hi. - Hi.
Good, how are you?
You can pick whichever one you want.
- Okay. - [indistinct]
- We put a fig leaf in front.
Eventually, we found ways
of processing skins from different animals
to better ourselves.
We'll place the mirrors here.
- In the closet? - Yes.
- When cultures were still very young,
men and women just draped robes
around their bodies-- there were no trousers--
and I find that to be very interesting.
And I like the color white,
for in all cultures
it's the color that symbolizes cleanliness.
It's about purity.
Thank you, thank you.
- Thank you for having us. - Thank you very much.
Thank you--you look beautiful. - Thank you.
- Thank you very much.
I conceived this performance
with an intention to only direct it,
and invite others to bring it to life.
[sewing machine clinking]
- It's a beautiful day when you sew.
Everything is lovely.
All of you, sew!
Keep on sewing.
- The piece is titled, "The Parable of the Sewer."
It's based on the history of missionaries
civilizing the uncivilized
by introducing them to the sewing machine,
and to create a new kind of fabric,
converting them to become something else.
Today, how we colonize is not done by force.
The sewing machine is both masculine and feminine.
It embodies both ideas of sex.
In the end, it's about the conception
of something new.
- You know how they say the clothes make the man?
We make the clothes.
- I'm just sewing ideas into your mind,
and I make you believe,
which I think equates colonizing.
This building became a synagogue
somewhere before 1926
when the Jewish community grew here,
so the Star of David and the things
that are there could have been stripped off
or could have taken them off, so that I erase its history
and make it mine.
So here, I'm not colonizing it...
I'm just here to take care of it.
We create our own understanding of the world.
All of us, we do.
As an artist, you should be the one
who sings off-key.
The South African story,
I'm not the first person to tell.
Many people have told it,
and many people continue telling that story,
but I have to find my way of telling that story
to share with the people all over the world.
- Next time on
"Art in the Twenty-First Century"...
- In the studio, there are no taboos.
[upbeat electronic music]
Art is like one of the few places in society
that is not so rigid.
Because where would this fit in, otherwise?
- To learn more about "art21"
and our educational resources,
please visit us online
"Art in the Twenty-First Century:
Season 9" is available on DVD.
To order, visit shop.pbs.org,
or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.
This program is also available for download on iTunes.