5th July 2011
As Pieter Hugo says in the discussion attached to this work http://www.pieterhugo.com/messina-musina/, ” What’s interesting to me is that there is this stereotype of how Africa gets depicted – a baobab with a sunset behind it. And this is not, of course, what it’s like at all.” His collection in this series dispels this idealism and shows a part of Africa viewed, but not seen, by tourists.
About a decade ago I had the good fortune to be able to holiday in Kenya several times over a period of a couple of years and the image the travel brochures projected of a lush green country with wild animal parks was in fact there, but what they didn’t prepare you for was the abject poverty and squalor on the drive from the airport to the tourist complexes. Further travel through the country via the many villages showed that much of the tourist industry income never reaches the ordinary people and their lives are nowhere near the pampered existence we in the west have by comparison.
Pieter Hugo’s images show yet another side of life in the much better developed country of South Africa, where this isolated township could be compared to the frontier towns of the American west in the mid 19th century. If the images of the people of both eras are compared they bear a striking similarity as does the relationship between the white people and indigenous. Viewing some of the other work he has done has this same ‘behind the curtain’ look at what really happens that we choose not to know about.
As Pieter says, he’s not trying to mean anything with these images, he’s just showing it how it is, tough and dirty.
I hope the visitors from the OCA who went with Gareth, Jose and Clive enjoyed what they saw, but also reflected and thought about their condition and that of those that made those images so real.