2011 - Ongoing
The year 2019 marks twenty-five years since Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s president and his nation, a free country. The children born in the years right after apartheid was abolished, are now young adults.
This is the Born Free Generation, or the born-frees, Mandela’s human legacy: the first generation in which every South African has the same opportunities and racial segregation is a thing of the past. They were to be the face of a new, free, and successful South Africa.
I have been following the born-frees since 2011. In photos I capture these young people’s lives, which reveal that reality resists change. Modern day racism around the world has been talked about a lot in media. Racism in South Africa, where the apartheid system was implemented decades ago, is still noticeable in day to day life. Social segregation may be a thing of the past, but class segregation seems to have taken its place. And for many South Africans, childhood is a time shaped by extreme violence and the aftermath of HIV and AIDS.
Some of the youngsters I follow are extremely successful, in arts, fashion, media and many other creative jobs. But some of the youngsters from this generation are struggling—sometimes more so than their parents—with unemployment, poverty, and inequality.
Although I have been working on this project for quite some years, I am not finished yet. In the upcoming months I will hopefully be visiting South Africa at least 2 more times, and also photographing the elections in South Africa in May. I am in search of the born-frees and their stories and want to make contact with people from all walks of the Mandela generation: rich and poor, black and white, LGBTQ and straight, city and country, of different faiths and social and cultural groups.
This variety provides a rich palette of perspectives on the lives, ambitions, and beliefs of the born-free generation. I am currently following born frees and I am making an overview of how the country, across every layer of society, is doing after twenty-five years of democracy.
This project has been mostly self funded since the start in 2011. (I received the Canon Female Photography award/grant in 2012. The 8000 euro grant money gave me a good start financially, but in the years that followed I self funded it all).
The first part of the project, which was about extreme racist white Afrikaners, won two awards at the World Press Photo and two awards at POYi in 2012. Because of this recognition, and the publications that followed, I got to continue the project partly.
Now, 7 years later, the struggle to continue is starting, but I am trying to travel back and forth to South Africa as much as I can, to continue the project and I hope to publish the project in 2019, when the South African democracy turns 25 years.
I really hope PHM will see the importance of this story. Thank you for considering my project!