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Promises and Lies
28 August 2017

A new exhibition was recently opened in the foyer of the Humanities building on the main Hatfield Campus of the University of Pretoria.  This exhibition addresses controversial issues with regard to the ANC political party, the issues of exile and freedom.  A central question asked by the organizer and curator of the exhibition, Dr. Siona O'Connell, is what were the promises of the ANC and what is now being perceived as a lie -  a very timely subject!


The exhibition write-up states the following:

The years 1989-1991 marked a world in transition, with revolutions in the Eastern Bloc, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in South Africa, the dismantling of apartheid. Events critical to the latter transition - from white minority rule to multiracial democracy - included the unbanning of organisations like the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan African Congress (PAC); the return of political exiles; the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners; and the initiation of political negotiations in the country.

As with that period, the past three years have signalled in South Africa a certain turning-point - a critical shift, charged by student-lead protests aimed at forms of institutionalised racism and the slow pace of transformation in universities; the increasing proliferation of service-delivery protests across the country; and in general, a growing disenchantment with the social imaginaries of 'Rainbowism' and the 'New South Africa'. In addition to this, charges of corruption, mismanagement and even state-capture have brought Government and the integrity of the ANC into disrepute.

Taken by award-winning British photographer Laurie Sparham, and collated by curator and film-maker Dr Siona O'Connell, the thirty unique photographs in this exhibition chronicle the experience of ANC exiles living in Tanzania and Zambia from 1989-1990. Featuring a provocative new documentary by O'Connell, likewise titled Promises & Lies - the ANC, Exile & the Project of Freedom, the exhibition offers viewers a chance to consider the personal and familial sacrifices of political exile, the promise of freedom that was its aspiration, and these in relation to a current landscape of crisis and failure in which we, as 'new South Africans', find ourselves complicit. The images compel us to think about links and traces, aspirations and accountability - and, in the interests of an as-of-yet unrealised freedom, difficult questions we must ask of history and its resonances in the present.

- Author Nicole Hoffmann
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The Promises and Lies Exhibition in the foyer of the Humanities Building by Dr. Siona O'Connell