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Documentary, Desire, Description: South Africa’s ‘Second World War’ and the mediation/materialisation of ‘witness’

This project centres on South Africa’s first illustrated magazine Libertas (1940 -1946) a vehicle of anti-Fascist advocacy and propaganda for pro-Allied engagement in WW2. Constance Stuart was the magazine’s war correspondent working in North Africa, France and Italy. Her Italian photographs form the core of my research. These are analysed within the context of the magazine’s political remit (allied with Jan Smuts, the Liberal party and a ‘white’ paternalistic programme for the post-war future of a ‘new South Africa’) as well as its radical pictorial and design format. Modernist and experimental in look at the same time as being wedded to a ‘documentary’ aesthetic, whether in relation to the war or to social problems at home, the magazine constitutes a key moment in South African visual/publishing history. Taking the visual economy of Libertas seriously will allow me to rethink the history of documentary photography in SA as well as the political and social vision it adumbrated. But I will also be exploring a personal WW2 archive, the letters written home by my soldier/father from Italy and the family/war albums that were produced by ordinary soldiers like him. Personal, pictorial and political histories will be interwoven, as will the visual mediations that teach us about the past and our places within it.


Fellows involved in this project

United Kingdom

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Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].