I am thrilled to have received my own copy of Landscapes between Then and Now: Recent Histories in Southern African Photography, Performance and Video Art by Nicola Brandt (Bloomsbury 2020), writes Alex Dodd.
“I did an early edit of the manuscript and learnt a lot in the process, not just about photography in relation to space and place, but about the history of the southern African region. As a Namibian artist and writer, Brandt brings a unique perspective to bear on the entangled histories we share across national borders and time.
I particularly appreciated the chapter entitled ‘Namibia’s War of Independence: Power, Knowledge and Amnesia’, in which she explores John Liebenberg’s Grave Site at Uupindi and Jo Ractliffe’s As Terras do Fim do Mundo.
As a South African who lived through the years of the apartheid regime’s secret border wars, learning of the violence that was unleashed on the people of Angola and Namibia is a lifelong process of painful uncovering for me.
‘South Africa pursued ruthless counter-insurgency operations as part of its total strategy against Frontline-States and the liberation movements that they accommodated.’ (Marion Wallace: A History of Namibia: From the Beginning to 1990, Oxford University Press, 2014)
As Brandt writes, ‘The works under discussion in this chapter … form part of the established tradition of aftermath photography; they capture the haunting pull of an opaque war, still inscribed on the land, and represent a significant departure from direct record making; their work is done in the wake of traumatic pasts and poses questions about the relationship of the past to the future.’
I also value the book’s present and future-mindedness and the introduction it provides to the work of a younger generation of socially engaged multimedia artists, like Kitso Lynn Lelliot, Isabel Katjavivi, Kiluanji Kia Henda and others.”