The exhibition is about rural resistance and struggle in KwaZulu-Natal.
The dispossession of land through forced removals undertaken by the National Party government was the central feature of experiences for many rural communities in South Africa during apartheid. More than 3.5 million people in total were estimated to have been relocated from their land during the heyday of apartheid between 1960 and 1983. About half of them (1.7 million) were African farm workers and labour tenants evicted from white farms and those who were removed from so-called “black spots’’, rural freehold land bought by Africans before the 1913 Land Act that subsequently fell within “white” South Africa. This means that at least about 16 per cent of rural Africans suffered from forced removals in the country. (Surplus People Project [1983a], Forced removals in South Africa, Volume I-IV)
The impact of forced removals on rural African communities was enormous. Removals uprooted people from the land that provided not only rural production base, but also had social and symbolic importance. The centrality of forced removals in the experiences of the apartheid regime for many rural communities brought about peculiar features of rural struggles in the second half of the twentieth century in South Africa. While we need to be aware of the extent of wage and welfare dependence amongst the rural poor during this period, it is nevertheless striking that the rural politics of dispossessed communities were still centrally concerned with rural resources, most importantly land. This is well demonstrated in the case studies of Cremin, Roosboom, Weenen and others, where community struggles of the early 1990s were driving forces in the realisation of land reform. Roosboom and Cremin were leading communities in rural land struggles led by former black spot communities that obtained a national voice in the early 1990s when apartheid was finally coming to an end. They participated in national debates on the formulation of land reform policy of the post-apartheid government.
Rural land struggles during apartheid were not isolated events. Nor were they particularly close to mainstream anti-apartheid movements that began to emerge since the early 1970s in the forms of trade unions, black consciousness groups and finally the United Democratic Front (UDF). The 40 photographs provide a visual to the rural resistance and struggles for land in KwaZulu-Natal through the Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA) experience for the past 40 years. Established in Pietermaritzburg in 1979, AFRA assisted rural communities in their struggle against forced removals. This involved working with farm workers and labour tenants who faced eviction from white – owned farms and with freehold communities resisting forcible removal.
Since 1979 many things have changed, but the rural people that AFRA serves still face immense problems and challenges – unresolved land claims, under resourced land redistribution, continuing evictions and harassment and larger threats relating to food security and climate change. AFRA does not see its task as done – we are here for the foreseeable future.
Join the AFRA photo exhibition on 22 June 2019, hosted at the Natal Museum, in Pietermaritzburg from 12:00 noon.
There are 40 photographs from the period of forced evictions, to 1994 and the area of optimism. #AFRAturns40.