Exhibition traces migrant workers’ journey

first_imgSouth Africa was built on mining, and its mines were built on migrant workers. Millions of black men across southern Africa were forced by economic circumstance and taxes to travel to the city of gold, leaving their families at home. (Images: WAM) • Fiona Rankin-Smith Curator Ngezinyawo – Migrant Journeys Wits Art Museum +27 11 717 1365 Fiona.Rankin-Smith@wits.ac.za • Benin gallery keeps African art in Africa • Exhibition exposes apartheid, celebrates South African photography • Soweto: from struggle to suburbia • Historic Soweto township turns 80 • Africanis – the dog of AfricaMelissa Jane CookAs the country emerges from a volatile five-month long strike in the platinum mining sector, the Wits Art Museum (WAM) opens an extraordinary exhibition focusing on migrant workers in South Africa. Migrant labour is fundamental to the making of modern South Africa and the exhibition tells the stories of these men.Ngezinyawo – Migrant Journeys is rich and diverse, and spans many years of collective heritage. Items on display include contemporary artwork, archival documents, photographs, films, music, artefacts from ethnographic collections, and interviews. It glaringly highlights that 20 years into democracy, there are still numerous, unresolved problems associated with the system of migrant labour.The elaborate art, dress, dance, music and song that migrants crafted to assert and express their humanity feature prominently. Life was and continues to be difficult for migrant workers. Performance and song played a vital role in passing on oral histories, for social commentary and artistic expression. These creative outputs show an ability to survive with dignity despite the daily hardships they faced.Like the migrants, visitors to the exhibition participate in a physical journey through the museum. They walk the road alongside early migrants to the cities, who mainly sought work on the mines. Overcoming hostility, harsh living conditions, violence, dispossession and loss are the recurrent themes at the exhibition – yet there are also themes of resilience and creativity.The glitter of goldSouth African society changed greatly when gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand in 1886. This discovery was central to South Africa’s industrial development and to the politics of segregation. Here, on the goldfields of the Rand, the lives of many people intersected. Within a decade, Johannesburg had developed into the largest city in South Africa, populated by tens of thousands. Prospectors, labourers, fortune hunters, shop keepers and immigrants from all over the world flocked to the city. Residential areas were hastily constructed and in the poorer sections slums developed.As the mines went deeper underground, the demand for cheap labour intensified. The Chamber of Mines asked the government to provide a cheap labour supply. Over time, the state introduced a number of measures to force more black men to work in the mines. These included introducing taxes such as the hut tax and the poll tax – they had to leave their land to work in the city to earn money to pay the taxes.For its part, the Chamber of Mines preferred to use migrant labour because they could be paid very low wages. The industry justified the low wages by claiming that the migrants’ families earned an additional income in the reserves. Because migrants were supposedly only part-time workers, the mine owners did not have to provide them with any kind of social security. Mine owners also preferred migrant labour because the workers could be controlled more easily. The men had to sign employment contracts. If they broke their contracts by deserting, which many did, they were arrested and got a criminal record. The migrants were also housed in closed compounds, or hostels, which were tightly controlled.Conditions on the mines were very bad in the early decades. Workers often laboured 14 hours a day. Deaths from major accidents, pneumonia, tuberculosis, silicosis and malnutrition were extremely high.Tracing the journeyTracing the journey from rural areas to the city, the interactive exhibition includes personal objects such as hut tax receipts and a stamped passbook. There are envelopes decorated by self-taught artist Tito Zungu. Using pencil, ballpoint pens and coloured pens, the envelopes were decorated with images of boats, aeroplanes and transistor radios. Moving between time and space, these envelopes made the journey from work to home, linking the migrants’ different worlds. They spent long periods of time away from their families and letter writing was the only means of communication.Personal objects such as walking sticks, snuff bags and pipes that the workers carried with them were powerful reminders of the homes and families they left behind. These objects can be thought of as symbols of the personal journey that they made.Single-sex compounds with concrete bunk beds and cold, bare walls were constructed to house migrant mine workers. Some of these mining compounds, or hostels, are still in use today, although the city of Johannesburg is renovating them and turning them into family units. Photographs and other remarkable objects on display provide insight into the living conditions and hardships encountered in hostels. But there are also extraordinarily creative everyday objects, music and performances that transcended the daily struggle. There are envelopes decorated by self-taught artist Tito Zungu. Using pencil, ballpoint pens and coloured pens, the envelopes were decorated with images of boats, aeroplanes and transistor radios. Kentridge filmA short film by artist William Kentridge is part of Ngezinyawo – Migrant Journeys. It is a dramatization of the inequality and oppression of life on the mines. Set in the over-exploited, scorched industrial and mining landscape around Johannesburg, it represents the legacy of a time of abuse and injustice.Kentridge develops the analogy between the landscape and the mind. A journey into the mines provides a visual representation of a journey into the conscience of the main character, Soho Eckstein, the white South African property owner who exploits the resources of land and black human labour which are under his domain. Throughout the film the imagery shifts between the geological landscape underground inhabited by innumerable black miners and Soho’s world of white luxury above ground. Soho sits at his desk in his customary pin-stripe suit and punches adding machines and cash registers, creating a flow of gold bars, exhausted miners, blasted landscapes and blocks of uniform housing. Soho sits at his desk in his customary pin-stripe suit and punches adding machines and cash registers, creating a flow of gold bars, exhausted miners, blasted landscapes and blocks of uniform housing.The issues surrounding migrants that are addressed in this exhibition are part of a history that continues to profoundly affect South African society. The difficult lives of migrant workers and their families, xenophobic violence and recent upheavals in the mining sector – culminating in the Marikana massacre and this year’s devastating strike in the platinum sector – are just a few of the headlines that confront contemporary South Africa.A book entitled A Long Way Home: Migrant Worker Worlds 1800 – 2014 has been published to accompany the exhibition and includes essays by leading local and international academics.Guardian of the exhibitionThe exhibition was curated by Fiona Rankin-Smith, veteran WAM curator and the force behind important exhibitions such as Figuring Faith: Images of Belief in Africa (2005) and Halakasha, the football exhibition mounted to coincide with the 2010 World Cup.For Ngezinyawo – Migrant Journeys, she collaborated with Peter Delius, the history professor and widely published author from Wits University. “South Africa is internationally infamous as the site of a systematic and pervasive system of racial discrimination. What is less well known, though, is how uniquely fundamental migrant labour was to the making of modern South Africa,” Delius explains.Ngezinyawo – Migrant Journeys is on display at the Wits Art Museum until 20 July 2014.last_img read more

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Silicon Welly

first_imgrichard macmanus Related Posts A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… This post mayring a bell for all the non-Silicon Valley readers. Firstly an admission: I hardly everwrite about my home country, New Zealand. The reason for that is mostly down todemographics: just 1% of Read/WriteWeb’s page views come from my own country. The US, UKand Canada are where the bulk of R/WW’s readers come from – but I’m also pleased with thegrowth in readers from Europe, Asia and other parts of the world.So 1% would indicate that NZers are just a tiny slice of the R/WW target audience –and that’s true. But recently I’ve noticed an increase in web 2.0 excitement in NewZealand. And I think people from other countries may have a similar feeling – thatthis current era of the Web is creating opportunities and innovation far outside SiliconValley (even though the Valley still is the spiritual and monetary home of theWeb).The NZ 2.0 mailing list wasstarted by Nat Torkington (of O’Reilly Media)and yours truly in November last year. Lately on the list there’s been discussion about“Silicon Welly” – a new nickname for my hometown of Wellington, coined by NatalieFerguson and Tim Norton of local startup Decisive Flow.Wellington is beginning to see a lot of activity in web app development, accompanied (itmust be said) by a sudden increase in Wellingtonians wanting to show me their businessplans or prototypes ;-). Plus there are more events – the Webstock conference earlierthis year and a recent fun geek event run by my friends at geekzone.co.nz. Christchurch too has a lot ofactivity and is where the development arm of Eurekster (the social search engine) is based. Notforgetting my pals in Auckland, such as the team behind Throng – a site for TV fansfrom New Zealand.Idealog, a magazine in NZ, recentlyran a piece about the Silicon Welly phenomenon:“So where are the bright young things creating kick-ass web businesses in Godzone?The good news is they’re out there. Take, for example, ProjectX, a team ofsuperbright online mapping gurus who have licensed their technology to Trade Me for itsSmaps website and have their sights set on providing mapping tools for the world.Consider also Star Now, an inspired site built by three Wellingtonians on their OE whichintroduces dancers, actors, models, musicians and reality TV wannabes to castingdirectors, movie and TV producers and to each other.”So the Web is (finally) making an impact in NZ, a country of 4 million peopleon the other side of the world. If you’re an international R/WW reader, I wonder if youhave a similar story to tell about your local Web market? Is the Web ramping up in yourcountry too?Picture of kiwi bird: jdlasica Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic…center_img Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Tags:#international#web 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

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Top stories: Bumblebees in trouble, memory loss, and energy-boosting enzymes

first_img‘Old-age protein’ may cause memory lossThe next time you forget where you left your car keys, you might be able to blame an immune protein that builds up in your blood as you age. The protein impairs the formation of new brain cells and contributes to age-related memory loss—at least in mice, according to a new study. Blocking it could help prevent run-of-the-mill memory decline.Catastrophic Chinese floods triggered by air pollutionSign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)In 2013, the worst flooding to hit China in 50 years was happening in the Sichuan province. About 200 people died, and a further 300,000 were displaced. Researchers designed computer simulations to model what had happened in order to find out whether the flood was caused by pollution. In the case of the Sichuan storms, soot had altered air circulation patterns and redistributed rainfall. The results suggest that air pollution should become a regular factor for weather forecasting.Need an energy boost? This enzyme may helpWhether you’re entering the home stretch of a marathon or trying to lug your groceries up that last flight of stairs, you push and push, and just when you think you can’t push any more, your body summons a bit of extra energy to get you through. Now, scientists have figured out where that boost comes from. What’s more, they say we may be able to use supplements to help us access it.Bumblebees being crushed by climate changeAs our climate changes, plants and animals are on the move. But bumblebees don’t seem to have gotten the memo. Rather than moving north toward cooler weather, the bees are staying put within shrinking ranges—or just disappearing altogether.Independent group pans WHO’s response to EbolaIf the World Health Organization (WHO) is to better protect humanity from major epidemics, it will have to change fundamentally. That is the conclusion of an independent panel charged with assessing WHO’s handling of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has killed more than 11,000 people.last_img read more

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