In 2014, twenty years after democracy, three young South African photographers travelled throughout their homeland to examine to what extent Nelson Mandela’s vision had been achieved.
The year was a significant one to make a journey of personal and societal enquiry into what it means to be a South African; The nation’s guardian Nelson Mandela had most recently passed away, a new young and energetic political party had recently emerged in the EFF, and the 2014 National Elections were imminent.
Each photographer focused on a particular theme:
Wikus de Wet, an Afrikaner from Bloemfontein, looked to discover the relationship between land and the people who occupy it.
Sipho Mpongo, a Xhosa from Nqamakwe, documented the ‘Born Free’ generation - those born after the fall of Apartheid.
Sean Metelerkamp, an English-speaking South African from Knysna, sought to capture the idiosyncrasies - the alien and absurd realities of his country.
"They form a diverse yet strong voice of the nation” - GUP
"A young man truly seeing his country for the first time” - NEW YORK TIMES
“Relate to each other by questioning, engaging and exploring intersections of past, present and future.” - YET MAGAZINE
The diversity of each photographers cultural background, experience and chosen theme, collects fragments that together frame the realities of contemporary South Africa. Twenty Journey was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign wherein 134 backers pledged $12,402
Stretched out over 7 months, this sum enabled the photographers to travel in a motor-home and reflect the magnificently puzzled country that binds them.
A BRIEF VIDEO INTRODUCTION
“The ‘Born Frees’ (those born after the fall of Apartheid) make up about 40 percent of the population, and the critics among older South Africans contend that they are apathetic and apolitical, unaware of the history of the struggle that made their lives better. Will they allow themselves to be defined by the scars of apartheid, or will they embrace freedom, choice and opportunity?
I became very conscious of where I belong in this country and what I could offer to other people I met, especially the youth. I wanted to find out their definition of freedom by examining their social dynamics and the shared confusion of what it means to be a Born Free in South Africa. My process throughout the whole journey was learning and teaching."
His photos offer a panorama of youth from all corners of South Africa - New York Times Lens Blog.
Wikus de Wet
“Land is a contentious issue among South Africans. My goal is to understand the relationship that land has to the people whom occupy it.
There are, however, a few key factors that complicate this issue. Some of these include historical value of the land, food security, mineral rights of the land, low income housing, commercial value of land, and corruption within the government. There is ongoing speculation with regards to the extent that each factor influences the new land policies. The tension created by these differences further complicates matters.
Having travelled South Africa for seven months - listening, looking, debating, and documenting the stories about the relationships people have with the land they occupy, work and/or live on - I realise that the land issue is far more complex than what might appear on the surface.”
Wikus de Wet (1990) focuses on the examination of the land that spans the country itself: its cultural, historical and commercial value and the relationship with its residents. De Wet documents what these aspects of land can divulge about those who live upon it. His series is dominated by landscapes, in which considered compositions exhibit dialogue between contemporary and traditional use of the land. Assorted purposes and activities span the spaces; new modern culture influences the architecture and infrastructure that demonstrates diversity to match its residents. - GUP Magazine
Click here to view a selection of Wikus’ photos from the Twenty Journey.
“I retain the good, the bad, the weird and the wonderful within my blood and I see the hope, superstition, desire, regret, persistence and anger of this nation. I recognize the problematic nature of racial realities that afflict all South Africans and have been a part of the change, before and after. Attuned to new experiences, alien to the values of the dominant society, I use my tools and skills to evoke the absurdity of life in this magnificently puzzled country.”
As the only one of the group who experienced life growing up under white rule, Sean Metelerkamp follows his interest in the idiosyncrasies of the Rainbow Nation. Accepting its unforgiving historical present and the conflicting patterns that merge to make up the society, Metelerkamp portrays South Africa’s unique beauty in the diverse range of culture and attitudes. Elements of the past are united with the future and stray moments captured, with genuine ease, alongside documentary compositions to depict the nature of life in South Africa. - GUP Magazine
Click here to view a selection of Sean’s photos from the Twenty Journey.
Click here to read a selection of Sean's writings from the Twenty Journey.