BORN FREE - Mandela's Generation of Hope - PhMuseum

BORN FREE - Mandela's Generation of Hope

Ilvy Njiokiktjien

2007 - 2019

(Last year I send in part of this project, but at the time it was not finished yet, the project was finalised end of 2019).

The year 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the democracy of South Africa. In 1994 South Africa held its first inclusive elections. These brought an end to decades of white minority rule. The segregation system of apartheid ended, but the aftermath of the system endures twenty-five years later.

As the nation’s first black president, Nelson Mandela focused on reconciliation and hope for the future. The children born in the years around apartheids' ending are now young adults: the born-free generation for whom racial segregation is a thing of the past. It falls to these young South Africans to make the dream of a rainbow nation come true.

Twelve years ago, in 2007, I started working on this personal project. I started photographing (and filming) and saw the country change. My interest in the born frees kept growing.

The project takes a look into how free the born-frees really are and how the history of their country influences their daily lives. It also shows how modern day racism affects them. The series portrays the born frees in their daily lives, and also shows details of a country trying to find its way.

The born free stories are about social change, freedom, humanity, (in)equality and diversity.

In this long term project you find born free youth from all walks of the born free generation: rich and poor, black, white, Indian and coloured, city and rural, of different faiths and social and cultural groups.

Corruption, crime and poverty are keeping many of the born-frees captive. They struggle—sometimes even more than their parents—with unemployment and inequality. Estimates of youth unemployment in 2019 range around 52 percent.

But there has also been real progress: many born-frees live successful lives and are pursuing careers that wouldn't have been open to them during the old racist regime.

With this project I want to show how the country, across every layer of society, is doing after more than twenty-five years of democracy.

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  • Johannesburg, South Africa - Bulisani Dube (25) of the Twelve Apostels Church includes Nelson Mandela in his prayer on the hill of Yeoville, that overlooks the centre of Johannesburg on the 30th of June 2013.
    Across South Africa people have been praying for the well being of former president Nelson Mandela. He has been in critical condition in the Pretoria Mediclinic Heart hospital for over 3 weeks.
    Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, ending the apartheid system.

  • Durban, South Africa - A group of homeless boys smoke drugs in a dilapidated house, which serves as a makeshift shelter in downtown Durban on the 12th of January 2019.

    “UNICEF has estimated that there are tens of millions of street children and adolescents globally. In South Africa, about 250,000 children and adolescents are reported to be living on the street. Most are in the large cities, including Durban, the second largest city in South Africa.” (source: StatsSA).

  • Manenberg, Cape Town, South Africa - Neighbours cheer as Lauren-Lee Scheepers (18) and her prom date walk out of the house on the 2nd of December 2013 in Manenberg, Cape Town, South Africa. Manenberg, a suburb of Cape Town, is a rough area, with gangs ruling the streets. Lauren-Lee is the first to attend the high school prom in her entire family.

    Drugs, alcohol and gang violence are rife in the notorious Cape Town neighbourhood. The gang violence affects the schools in the area, which see a high high school drop out rate, because youngsters are drawn to the gangster life instead of to studying.

  • Klerksdorp, South Africa - Jason van Zyl (13) on his bed at home in Klerksdorp on the 21st of November 2011. Jano attended the right-wing Kommandokorps camp earlier in the year. After returning home he was unsure what to think of South Africa’s rainbow nation.

    Jano is part of the born free generation. These are the children born in the years around apartheids' ending, they are now young adults: for this generation official racial segregation is the past.
    Corruption and poverty are keeping many of the born-frees captive. They struggle—sometimes even more than their parents—with unemployment and inequality.
    But there has also been real progress: many born-frees live successful lives and are pursuing careers that wouldn't have been open to them during the old racist regime.

  • Pretoria, South Africa, Youngsters who are part of 'The Creatives', a collective of young artistic individuals, based in Pretoria, attend a stand up comedy show on the 28th of October 2018. The group comes together every few months and the meetings are mainly organised by Innocent Moreku (22, in middle).

    Innocent Moreku makes no attempt to sound modest when he introduces himself. “I am an artist, a fashion icon, social media personality, master of ceremony. Just to round it off, I’m a very influential creative.”
    Still, the 22-year-old – who stays with his mother and siblings in Lotus Gardens, Pretoria – considers himself “lower class”, having grown up in a large family that would at times struggle to have proper food and clothes for everyone.

  • Johannesburg, South Africa - Ofentse Sean Lewis (27, left) and Sipho Lewis Maestro Azzuro (24, r) sit together on the Nelson Mandela bridge in Johannesburg on the 15th of October 2018.
    As a gay couple Ofentse and Sipho can legally get married in South Africa. This law was passed when the new constitution was installed in 1994, when Nelson Mandela became president. This made South Africa the first (up to date), African country to allow same sex marriages.

  • Hilton, South Africa - The swim team of Michaelhouse right before the match at Hilton College, in Hilton, South Africa, on the 23rd of January 2019. Michaelhouse is a neighbouring boarding school to Hilton College, both used to be all-white boarding schools during apartheid in South Africa. Hilton College and Michaelhouse have a long history of friendly rivalry. The two schools have much in common and are the only two full boarding schools remaining in KwaZulu-Natal.
    The boys in the swim team are all part of the born free generation. These are the children born in the years around apartheids' ending, they are now young adults: for this generation official racial segregation is the past.
    Corruption and poverty are keeping many of the born-frees captive. They struggle—sometimes even more than their parents—with unemployment and inequality.
    But there has also been real progress: many born-frees live successful lives and are pursuing careers that wouldn't have been open to them during the old racist regime.

  • Manenberg, Cape Town, South Africa - An undercover member of the anti-gang unit in Cape Town’s gang ridden area Manenberg searches a boy for gang related tattoos on the 25th of July 2015. Every gang in Manenberg has its own tattoos, and when people claim not to be part of a gang, they can get searched.
    Drugs, alcohol and gang violence are rife in this notorious Cape Town neighbourhood. The gang violence affects the schools in the area, which see a high high school drop out rate, because youngsters are drawn to the gangster life instead of to studying.

  • Johannesburg, South Africa - Wilmarie Deetlefs (24) and her boyfriend Zakithi Buthelezi (27) kiss in his car after a night out on the 1st of November 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Zakithi Buthelezi (27) notices people often treat him differently once they find out he has a white girlfriend. Friendlier, more interested. It gets him respect. For Wilmarie Deetlefs (24) – his girlfriend – it’s mostly the other way around. “Go get yourself a man of your own color,” she once had a taxi driver snarl at her.
    “So you like them darker” or “I see you like your vanilla”, are comments they hear a lot. These may be harmless jokes to the people saying them, but such remarks still frustrate the couple. “They are basically saying this is something out of the ordinary. But it’s not”, says Deetlefs. “It’s just two people connected,” Buthelezi adds.
    “But those are little things,” they put it into perspective. “It’s not like prosecution”. Which is what they could have faced under apartheid laws, where interracial relationships were prohibited. “I would have totally sneaked around for you though,” Deetlefs adds, laughing.
    Five months into their relationship – “a Tinder success story” – Deetlefs hasn’t yet told her parents about it. “The previous relationship I had with someone who wasn’t white, my dad took it so weirdly, strangely personal.
    She blames it on the conservative mentality in the small rural town where she grew up, and where her parents still live. “People gossip and say really mean things. That’s why I have no friends back there, and I never had friends growing up, because I could not connect with those people.”

  • Polokwane, South Africa - A domestic worker sweeps the floor beneath Tanya Grobler’s (19) feet on the 30th of March 2012. The family says they do not know its maid’s name, though she has cleaned their home daily for years. They claim they call her by saying ’Tsss tsss.”

  • Johannesburg, South Africa - People order drinks at the bar at the Pirates Bowls Club in Johannesburg on the 12th of October 2018. One of the bands playing that night is Desmond and the Tutus. Bars, like many other social places used to be divided in color during apartheid.

  • Pretoria, South Africa - Jason Noah (21) arrives at a nightclub in Pretoria to celebrate his 21st birthday. Jason is a foreign exchange trader, an activity that has made him millions of rands. He grew up in a middle-class family.

    When he drives his brand new BMW M4 through the city, the top open, girls as well as guys scream with excitement when they see him pass. “I never let it go to my head. Like I said: always be humble. But I won’t lie to you, it does feel nice.”
    Jason Noah spent 250 000 rand – almost 20 000 dollars – on his last birthday party. “I paid for all the celebrities myself, the venue, the alcohol, everything was on me. But it was worth it.” A video of him dancing with his dad at the party went viral, with the help of his almost 170 000 Instagram followers.

  • Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, South Africa - Men work out at a gym, under a tin roof in Kayamandi, South Africa on the 10th of December 2018.

    Kayamandi is the township of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, South Africa. The name means "nice home" in the Xhosa language, from khaya meaning "home" and mnandi meaning "nice". It was founded in the early 1950s as part of the increased segregation during the apartheid regime. It was originally built to house exclusively black migrant male labourers employed on the farms in the Stellenbosch area.

  • Johannesburg, South Africa - Lehlabile Davhana (20, middle) celebrates her graduation together with her class mates at The African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg on the 20th of June 2014.
    Lehlabile grew up in Alexandra township in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the youngest of five children and lost her mother at the age of 15.
    The African Leadership Academy (ALA) in the north of Johannesburg, South Africa, chooses Africa's most promising young talents every year and teaches them leadership and entrepreneurship. The school wants to prepare six thousand young leaders in fifty years and in this way ensure positive change on the continent.

  • Pretoria, South Africa - Homeless Nonjabulo Ndzanibe (21) sits on the side walk on one of the rough areas of Durban, South Africa on the 23rd of March 2019. To find shelter, she sometimes sleeps with men for money.

    “I wanted to get that fresh air,” Nonjabulo Ndzanibe (21) explains why she ran away from her unhappy childhood home to the coastal city of Durban. “I just needed space for myself.”
    Having grown up with a distant father – who spent part of her youth in prison – and a mother who she didn’t feel loved by, it seemed like a welcome escape when a friend invited her to come stay in Durban.
    Little did she know that her friend’s sister – with whom they were staying – was working as a prostitute, and expected Ndzanibe and her friend to start bringing in money as well. “If we didn’t come back with money, she would slap us.”

  • Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa - Shacks in Khayelitsha township in Cape Town on the 11th of December 2018. The area was established in 1985 and large numbers of black people were forcefully relocated there. It is reputed to be the largest and fastest growing township in South Africa.
    Many born frees struggle to find jobs, the unemployment rate soars at 58% in the last quarter of 2019.
    Born frees who grow up in townships and do find jobs in the inner city, spend a lot of their time travelling to and from work. Most of the city centres in South Africa are still mainly inhabited by whites - a dividing line that was created during apartheid, but its scars are still seen in today’s society.

  • Polokwane, South Africa - Students of Tom Naudé High School in Polokwane, walking from one classroom to the other in between classes on the 28th of March 2012.
    People of color growing up during apartheid were not free to study wherever they wanted. By 1959 the apartheid regime had largely shut black, coloured and Indian students out of the country's top universities. The effect was to further disadvantage these economically fragile communities.
    In the mid 1980s the ruling white regime began to loosen these restrictions, and in 1991 then-president F. W. De Klerk outlawed segregation in South Africa's universities. It was progress – but poor schools and the economic gulf meant few people of color could achieve higher education. Many of the born-frees are the first in their families to graduate from college.

  • Polokwane, South Africa - André Venter on the couch with his father in Polokwane on the 2nd of April 2012. Andre attended the right wing Kommandokorps camp in Carolina a year earlier in April 2011. Andre works helps his father out in his garage. He says the camp made him a stronger man.

  • Carolina, South Africa - Young recruits during a Kommandokorps camp in Carolina, South Africa on the 8th of April 2011. The Kommandokorps is fringe right-wing group. The camp, held during a school holiday, teaches white Afrikaner teens self-defense and how to combat a perceived black enemy.
    The group’s leader, self-proclaimed ‘Colonel’ Franz Jooste, served with the South African Defence Force under the old apartheid regime and eschews the vision of a multicultural nation.

    The recruits are all part of the born free generation. These are the children born in the years around apartheids' ending, they are now young adults: for this generation official racial segregation is the past.
    Corruption and poverty are keeping many of the born-frees captive. They struggle—sometimes even more than their parents—with unemployment and inequality.
    But there has also been real progress: many born-frees live successful lives and are pursuing careers that wouldn't have been open to them during the old racist regime.

  • Carolina, South Africa, One of the camp leaders points a gun at a boys’ heads, during a self defence lesson in the field during the Kommandokorps camp in Carolina, South Africa.
    The Kommandokorps organises right wing racist camps during school holidays for young white Afrikaner teenagers, teaching them self-defence and how to combat a perceived black enemy. The group’s leader, self-proclaimed ‘Colonel’ Franz Jooste, served with the South African Defence Force under the old apartheid regime and eschews the vision of a multicultural nation. (2011)


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