My intention is to show aspects of village life through photographic images. These are just fragments of a much bigger picture of rural life; basic elements such as water, fuel, food, crafts, implements, crops, livestock etc. The skills used to access and create these elements have been traditionally passed on from elders to youth. But much of this is disappearing within the New South Africa.
I have been working off and on for almost thirty years on a project in this village, documenting the life of a man named Petros Mulaudzi and his family. In February 2010 I returned to Nthabalala to continue my project and research with the help of funding granted by Prohelvetia. As in most cases, one ends up taking photographs that do not necessarily fall within the ambit of the project at hand. This essay is a collection of such images. Although rather abstract and generalised, the essay addresses the same concerns as my highly personalised long term project on Mr Mulaudzi, namely the importance of both cultural heritage as well as individual creative experience in the bid to survive in a changing environment.
When arriving in the village I customarily visit the chief’s kraal to announce my presence. However the chief was not there, so I stopped by the tribal office. On the wall were two posters; one explaining the symbols of our New Coat of Arms and the other the Vision and Mission statements of the Municipality of Makhado. Needless to say, their content, as well as medium of language (English), seemed somewhat removed from the realities of this vhaVenda village. In this essay I ask that the viewer initially reflect on the content of these posters (shown in introductory image) before looking through the photographs. This is not intended as some conceptual artistic exercise but rather simply a way of reminding the viewer of these two different worlds; one of generic concepts and ideals and the other actual segments of given reality in the form of seemingly arbitrary photographic images.
The province of Limpopo is one of the most impoverished and underdeveloped in South Africa. Service delivery, especially to remote areas such as Nthabalala, is sparse. Electricity is available but in many instances not affordable or impractical. Water supply, available from communal taps, is erratic and limited. The community is still living under the control and governance of local tribal authority. Those individuals who are resourceful and motivated are still able to survive off the land but the majority of the village have fallen victim to social grants, saving schemes and higher purchase deals.
Self sufficiency has been largely replaced by the malaise of dependency. Is this due to the narrowing gap between rural and urban? Will village life eventually become obsolete?