Photo blog: Youth Month 2020

The opening exhibition at the Javett Art Centre-UP (Javett-UP) – 101 Collecting Conversations: Signature Works of a Century – includes a selection of works which carry a similar theme: youth.

This Youth Month we highlight these hugely iconic works of art by African artists as a tribute to the sacrifices made by the youth of South Africa and, in particular, by those who fought for freedom and equal education during the Soweto uprising 44 years ago.

Athi Pathra Ruga
The Knight of the Long Knives III by Athi-Patra Ruga

The Knight of the Long Knives

In this work, Ruga draws parallels between apartheid and the rise of fascism, presenting his work as a truly utopian document that satirises an existing situation, that of the queer black experience in the post-apartheid landscape. For Youth Month, the work represents a vibrancy and fun exploration of performative photography from a contemporary artist.

0078 Heather Gourlay Conyngham Nicole And Karyn
Nicole and Karyn by Heather Gourlay-Conyngham

Nicole and Karyn (left)

This work is part of a series of portraits that demonstrate Gourlay-Conyngham’s interest in depicting people in a decontextualised setting. The image portrays young South African sisters with albinism.

0027 Andrew Motjuoadi
Head of a Child by Andrew Motjuoadi

Head of a Child (right)

Andrew Motjuoadi’s Head of a Child was generally observational, drawn from his immediate social surroundings, which were impoverished black townships, but transformed through his sense of perspective, proportion and colour. The work represents an aspect of black township youth.

0087 Reshada Crouse Passive Resistance
Passive Resistance by Reshada Crouse

Passive Resistance

Structured similarly to the famous painting Liberty Leading the People (1830) by the French artist Eugène Delacroix, but in this case populated by prominent figures in the Johannesburg theatre scene. The painting is a homage to Delacroix, but it is also a political painting that depicts the role of artists in the theatre and the role youth play in the struggle against apartheid.

Mai Mai Militia

0044 Guy Tillim Mai Mai Militia 2003
Mai Mai Militia by Guy Tillim

Tillim was in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between December 2002 and January 2003 and photographed members of the Mai-Mai militia. These were community-based groups formed to resist the Rwandan invasion, though some may have been involved in banditry and looting. The format – a simple head-and-shoulders shot – in the series draws attention to the magnitude of this conflict in the DRC and to the mass recruitment of young men and boys.

Three Boys

Podlashuc’s gift lies in portraying, with a clear social conscience, the pathos and poverty of the children in the image, while still stylising their figuration, making the work not only aesthetically pleasing but also politically compelling. The work was chosen as the front cover illustration for the Penguin Modern Classics edition of Alan Paton’s iconic work of South African literature, Cry the Beloved Country.

0036 Marianne Podlashuc Three Boys
Three Boys by Marianne Podlashuc