South Africa will celebrate 20 years of Democracy since the ending of Apartheid this year.
In the spring of 1994 Per-Anders Pettersson arrived in South Africa to cover the country’s first democratic elections. Nelson Mandela was to become its first black president; he had been free for four years and had toured the world like a rock star. The election itself was of immense significance: from the ashes of a repressive, segregated and racist state a multi-racial nation miraculously emerged, one of the greatest success stories of the African continent. So began his love affair with South Africa. Over two decades he explored the country, the ‘Rainbow Nation’, questioning the complex realities of daily life.
For South Africa, Democracy was a hard won freedom that brought both rewards and new struggles: a soaring violent crime rate, disease, poverty and massive unemployment. Yet, South Africa’s policies reaped astonishing wealth for a new black elite, and saw the rapid emergence of a black middle class. The energy with which these so-called ‘black diamonds’ embraced capitalism was one of the most striking features of the transition. Their success also fostered a frenzied aspirational spirit amongst the poorer urban classes. However, during the second decade greed and disillusion began to smother this hope and aspiration. This is now the predominant theme in South African life.
About the author
Swedish born, Per-Anders Pettersson is an award winning photographer – World Press Photo, PDN, POY, NPPA, CARE, CHIPP, Unicef Photo of the Year, American Photography, Commarts. He has exhibited several times at Visa Pour L’mage,Perpignan and at other festivals and galleries around the world. His last major exhibition was ‘Amazon’, a two person show with Sebastião Salgado, held at Somerset House, London, in November/December 2011 and later in Dublin.