Homelands" explores the complexities of life on the economic margins of South Africa. The images are set in Woodlane Village, a squatter camp located in the wealthy suburb of Moreleta Park in Pretoria. Other home-places home are also depicted.
Woodlane Village comprises 846 households representing around 3000 people from Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, and South Africa. Most of the residents are political and economic refugees. The village is a crucible for the tensions South Africa is experiencing around land, migration, housing, the entrenchment of an economic form of segregation, and the context of social upheaval and violence. The village is called "Plastic View" by the surrounding homeowners who describe the place as a hotbed of crime and pestilence — and oppose integration and community-building efforts.
Although, the photographs are situated in the settlement and in the townships surrounding Pretoria, they reveal more of a psychological and emotional landscape than they do a physical one. They speak of love and loss, of adaptation and resilience, and of the yearning to live in community with others despite the forces pulling us apart. As Donald Banda one of the residents says: “We ran out here to make a life. I mean there is no place like home. But if home no longer feels like home, we are lost. We are a lost generation.”
This series is part of long-term documentary and narrative project (2012 to 2017) that consists of photos along with an unpublished memoir that captures the interlocking stories of four men who live in this community and myself as we inquire into the concepts of "home" and "belonging" and our common connection to our homeland.
Pieter de Vos is a documentary photographer, facilitator, and engaged academic. He has explored social issues such as poverty, ageing, and HIV/AIDS. His photos have been exhibited throughout Canada and have been featured by such media as Photo District News, the Globe and Mail, Photo Life Magazine, Alberta Views Magazine, the Edmonton Journal, and CBC Television.
In 2012 (ongoing), he initiated a long-term photographic and narrative exploration of place-making and spatial justice in an informal settlement in Pretoria, South Africa. Images from this project have been recognized by the News Photographers Association of Canada in the 2018 National Pictures of the Year Awards Competition. The photos are also winners in the photojournalism category of the PDN Photo Annual 2018. A monograph of the images taken from 2012 to 2017 will be published by Daylight Books in June 2019 to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of South Africa’s first open election (1994)
In 2006 he completed a major photo project comparing and contrasting the human experience of HIV/AIDS in two cities: Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Vancouver, Canada. The AIDS in Two Cities project involved collaborating with over 24 AIDS Service Organisations to harness the power of photography to stimulate dialogue on HIV/AIDS in both cities. Prior to this, he was active involved in documenting and researching homelessness in Canada.
Over the past several years, Pieter has enriched his practice by using digital storytelling, and arts-based methods to expand the possibilities for critical reflection, dialogue, and deliberation. He has facilitated workshops using these methods in Kenya, Sweden, Tanzania, Pakistan, Haiti, and the USA (Louisiana). These community-based projects have animated the dialogue on poverty and homelessness, HIV/AIDS, sexual identity, childhood injury, and gender and race relations.
Pieter has a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Alberta (2014) as well as a Masters in Public Health (2003). His research focuses on using narrative and visual methods to explore community understandings of home and belonging in South Africa.
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