Life on the Edge of the South African Dream

  • Photographer
    Pieter de Vos
  • Prize
    Honorable Mention
  • Date of Photograph
    August 2015; August 2017; September 2016; and September 2017
  • Technical Info
    Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

This photo-series explores the complexities of contemporary South Africa through the lives of two brothers who reside in Woodlane Village, an informal settlement in the heart of the affluent suburb of Moreleta Park, Pretoria. The settlement is a crucible for the tensions the country is experiencing around migration, housing, and economic disparities. The village is called "Plastic View" by the surrounding homeowners who describe the place as a hotbed of crime and pestilence ? and oppose integration and community-building.

Story

This photo-series explores the complexities of life in South Africa through the experiences of two brothers, Donald and Christopher Banda. I befriended them when I undertook doctoral fieldwork from 2012 to 2014 in Woodlane Village, an informal settlement located in the wealthy suburb of Moreleta Park in Pretoria. I have returned every year since then to chronicle their lives. The images depict Woodlane Village and other places Donald and Christopher call home. Woodlane Village comprises 846 households representing around 3000 people from Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, and provinces in South Africa. Most of the residents are political and economic refugees. The informal settlement was created by court order in 2009 after years of legal advocacy. The village is called "Plastic View" by the surrounding homeowners who describe the place as a hotbed of crime and pestilence and oppose integration and community-building efforts. The village is a crucible for the tensions South Africa is experiencing around land, migration, housing, the entrenchment of an economic form of segregation, and the context of social upheaval and violence. These are critical issues as the country approaches the 25-year anniversary of the first open election in April 2019. Although, the photographs are set in the settlement and in the townships surrounding Pretoria, they reveal more of a psychological and emotional landscape than they do a physical one. They reveal the hopes, challenges, and vulnerabilities of those living on the edge of the South African dream. As Donald says, "We ran out here to make a life. I mean there is no place like home. But if home no longer feels like home, we are lost. We are a lost generation.

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