Umhlaba, Wits Art Museum
I had a rushed visit to Umhlaba, the photographic exhibition marking the centenary of the 1913 Natives Land Act, which is currently showing at Wits Art Museum. Because of the topic – the contested nature of land and landscape in South African society, this exhibition cannot be anything but tough and hard-hitting. Superbly curated by David Goldblatt, Bongi Dhlomo, Pam Warne and Paul Weinberg, this is my pick of the week and I will definitely be going back before it closes on the 10th November.
It first opened at Iziko Cape Town where it was reviewed in the Mail and Guardian . Not only does the exhibition offer a narrative of dispossession from the early 20th century to the present day, but it also includes works by 30 of South Africa’s iconic documentary and socially conscious photographers. These include, amongst others, Jurgen Schadeberg, Eli Weinberg, Ernest Cole, Peter Magubane, Omar Badsha, Santu Mofokeng, Paul Weinberg and Jo Ractliffe.
David Goldblatt’s photographic essay on Kas Maine a black sharecropper is accompanied by a quote from Maine which serves as an overarching text for the exhibition:
“The seed is mine. The ploughshares are mine. The span of oxen is mine. Everything is mine. Only the land is theirs.”
This quote, recorded in conversation with Charles Von Onselen, gives its name to the fascinating biography by Von Onselen on Kas Maine entitled “The Seed is Mine”.