Orania, South Africa © Daniel Cuthbert
For the rest of this month, South Africa will be synonymous with football and positive images of the “Rainbow Nation”. But, as recent events surrounding the murder of white supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche demonstrated, it’s still a country marked by violent racial tensions.
These differences aren’t always easy to categorise, however, something that Daniel Cuthbert hopes will become apparent in his images exploring the complexities of South Africa. In one of his latest series he’s photographed Orania, an Afrikaner settlement originally established by Carol Borshoff, son-in-law of the former Apartheid Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, and considered by many to be one of the last bastions of white separatism.
But the people of Orania tell it differently, claiming it’s a place where Afrikaners can protect their way of life against an increasingly hostile majority. Following the culture of selfwerksaamheid (self-reliance), it’s run solely by Afrikaners, and although few blacks or Asians ever venture there, there’s allegedly nothing to stop them. And when you consider that the Afrikaans language is now the native tongue of three million mixed-race people in the Western Cape, you begin to realise that describing South Africa’s complex and sometimes volatile melting pot is not so black and white.
“It’s all above board and legal, and when it was created, Mandela said the Afrikaners had a right to a homeland,” says Cuthbert. “They say they just want to preserve their culture. I didn’t see many blacks, but then I went just after Terreblanche’s murder and I didn’t see any great sense of mourning either. His views were very extreme.”
Born in South Africa but also raised in the UK, Cuthbert has a particular take on his country – he knows it well, but can also view it with the cool detachment of an outsider. Currently studying for an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the London College of Communications, he’s already published work in The Times and on the BBC, and has put together several other projects in South Africa. One of the most recent, For the Fans, pairs portraits of black South Africans with recordings of them discussing the World Cup ticket prices – 400 Rand, twice their average monthly rent.
This month, while the tournament is in action, Cuthbert intends to visit the neighbourhoods around the stadiums, to see if the poor will really be cleared out of sight as rumoured. As for the Oranians, they won’t be much in evidence – they’re generally more interested in rugby. “I love the idea of the Rainbow Nation, but I don’t think it will happen,” says Cuthbert. “There are so many different tribes in South Africa.”
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