Story of new SA is told through the lens

AN inspiring exhibition by some of SA's top photographers is on at the Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Titled I am not Afraid, the exhibition is staged as part of Market Photo Workshop's 20th anniversary.

I am not Afraid was first shown in December 2007 at the Kunsthaus Graz, Austria, before moving to the Langhans Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, in June 2008.

Last year it was at the Aspekte Galerie at the Munchner Volkshochschule in Munich, Germany, and did well.

It features works by Bonile Bam, Zanele Muholi, Nontsikelelo Veleko, Jodi Bieber, Lerato Maduna and Sabelo Mlangeni.

The exhibition focuses on situations of life in South Africa after the end of apartheid and questions the profound social transformations that have taken place in the country.

It also touches on issues such as violence, sex, politics and economic problems.

Other images explore topics of migration, homelessness or health policy and also question issues of representation and identity in a complex multi-ethnic society.

Take Muholi's art works titled Faces and Phases. It looks at the controversial issues of lesbians.

"There is a meaning of interplay to Faces and Phases and why the projet focuses on these two words," Muholi explains.

"I decided to capture images of my community in order to contribute towards a more democratic South African homosexuality history.

"Up until 1994, we (black lesbians) were excluded from participating in the pages of the gay public movement and our voices were missing from the pages of gay publications, while white gay activists directed the movement and wrote about gay issues and struggles."

Bam tackles another very interesting issue - initiation. Through his photographs, Bam takes you right inside the initiation school.

He explains his works: "Among the Xhosas, a child is not accepted as an active member of the community until such time that they undergo a formal initiation.

"This status is achieved through initiation, which marks the end of a carefree childhood and the acceptance of adult responsibilities."