By Bangirana Albert Billy, University of KwaZulu-Natal
‘Victory in the Shadows’ by Teju Cole is a well-crafted analytical piece positioning contestations of power within photography, especially on how photography continues to guide and shape the trajectory of South African Society. Cole presents a unique genre of art and photography drawn from the celebrated artist Santu Mofokeng’s library of what I choose to call ‘Living Photography’ – a creative style that oozes with meaning. A vivid example of this great form of resistance is Hector Pieterson’s photo that was taken by Sam Nzima during the 1976 Soweto uprising that saw the youth rise against the draconian language policy and the demeaning ‘Bantu education’ of the apartheid regime.
Art in general is and has always been a tool of activism and defiance within the South African context. It is in fact a common feature to see graffiti on street walls, bridges, houses etc… The message/s imbued in this seemingly passive but effective form of resistance are but a public library for social change. Controversial political, economic, social and religious discourses are ever open to public scrutiny through this old but ever relevant form of creative agency. Art in all its forms has proven to be an effective medium of communication that is subversive towards normative ‘elitist’ paradigms. Alexander E. Duffy’s article, ‘Art History in South Africa: Past and Present’, offers a literal critique of the historical politics of art while also providing a way to understand art’s inclusive and transformative power.