ICP’s latest tour-de-force historical exhibition is Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life, opening September 14th. The exhibit attempts to include all the important forms of visual documentation that bore witness to South Africa’s sixty years of apartheid: films, books, and photographs in all forms, from newspaper-commissioned to social documentary to photo essay.
The exhibition is of course powerful for its subject matter, and the show digs deep in its illustration of how apartheid touched every aspect of life, large and small. You see the South African Communist Party demonstrating in a large group, with arms raised defiantly and film cameras swarming the scene. Contrast this with the lone woman on a streetcorner, protesting against hangings to passing traffic. Contrast this with a pro- segregation demonstration backed with Biblical quotes. Throughout, Rise and Fall of Apartheid is valuable for the way it showcases South African photographers working in incredible times, and under incredible pressures.
The show’s deep reach is thanks to its curators, the Nigerian-born Okwui Enwezor with Johannesburg-based Rory Bester, two specialists of modern and recent-era South Africa. Rise and Fall of Apartheid runs September 14 – January 6.