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From the series: Living in Yeoville

Gideon Mendel
From the series: Living in Yeoville, . Photograph .

‘Living in Yeoville revisited’

Gideon Mendel at Gallery MOMO

'Medel seems to search out the gentle structure of the emotions that collide or mutate or combine in the strange violence of the society.' - The Critic 1988, John Van Zyl

Gallery Momo presents ‘Living in Yeoville revisited’ , a reissue of Gideon Mendel’s exhibition 'Living in Yeoville‘ at the Market Photo Gallery from 1988.

'Twenty-five years ago, in 1988, I presented an exhibition entitled ‚Living in Yeoville‘ at the Market Photo Gallery. All the photographs were taken within a mile from my home. Recently, having reason to re-examine my work from the 1980’s in South Africa, I was struck in particulare by this projects. With the added weight of time, it now seems to say a great deal.

I was then part of a young generation of „struggle photographers“ committed to documenting the political mobilization of the period. I documented violent repression by the state and many tragic funerals of young township activists. Looking back at this work from Yeoville I can see that it was a personal ‚visual safety valve‘ coming from an impulse to make images within a landscape that included me, where I could be playful as a photographer yet still engage with the politics of the time.

When the government declared a State of Emergency in 1986, under which any photography of political protest or violence was outlawed, this work took on an added urgency. Redoubling my effort to explore the everyday encounters of black and white people taking place in Yeoville’s public spaces. I was searching for the small, often intimate moments that could reflect the divisions of apartheid.

This exhibition at Gallery Momo presents a selection of vintage prints from the project, many of which were originally displayed at the 1988 exhibition. It will also be showcasing my Living in Yeoville film, which was originally commissioned by curator Okwui Enwezor for Rise and Fall of Apartheid exhibition.

The film is a contemporary re-engagement with this defining documentary project, from my youth. Whilst making it I looked again at every image on the 344 rolls of film I had shot, and in the process initiated a personal rediscovery of the texture of that moment in history. In my old contact sheets and images I saw sometimes that I was unaware of at the time: ten years before liberation the bureaucratic edifice of apartheid was in the process of crumbling, and this was played out in the lives of the people of Yeoville.'

- Gideon Mendel

23 October - 24 November

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