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All Our Mothers
Annie Silinga II, 1982
In this photo Annie is dressed in the freen and black robes of the Federation of South African Women, seated regally in her wheelchair on the stoep of her home.
Annie Silinga I, 1982
Annie Silinga, who died in 1985, was one of the heroines of the Defiance Campaign of the 50s, publicly announcing that she would never carry a pass until the wife of the prime minister carried one too. I met her at a meeting where she spoke out against apartheid, and later visited her to get to know her better. This photo was taken inside her home in Langa.
Eslina Silinga, 1995
Eslina Silinga is the daughter of the redoubtable activist Annie Silinga, and a nurse by profession. This photo of Eslina, was taken in the Langa graveyard while we were walking around and discussing the matter of an appropriate grave for Annie.
This mother, the wife of a migrant labourer, was one of the so-called 'bed people' at the Crossroads squatter camp. She had come from the Transkei with her children to live with her husband, a contract worker in Cape Town. As she herself did not have legal rights, she was only allowed to erect a temporary shelter at night, as long as the wood and plastic sheeting of the structure was removed in the morning. This was the State's way of preventing her from making a more permanent house.
Virginia Mngoma, 1984
Helen Joseph, 1983
Cheryl Carolus, 1990
Mamphela Ramphele, 1985
Amina Cachalia I, 1984
Amina Cachalia (1930-2013) stands outside her house in Fordsburg, Johanesburg. Amina was a veteran of the Defiance Campaign of the 50s, and a lifelong activist who had joined the Indian Youth Congress in her high school years.
Amina Cachalia II, 2012
In this second photo of Amina Cachalia, she stands again outside the Fordsburg, Johannesburg house where she and her husband Yusuf lived for many years. After the release of Nelson Mandela, the Luttig Street house again became the site of frequent meetings of the top leadership of the ANC. It stands not far from a bridge, and the Cachalias became anxious that it would be only too easy to throw a bomb from the bridge and to dispose of all the newly released leaders in that way, so they moved.
Ellen Kuzwayo, 1983
A lifelong activist and supporter of women’s rights, Ellen Khuzwayo (1914 – 2006) was an only child who inherited her family farm. This farm was taken away from her by the Nationalist government. She was president of the ANC Youth League in the 1960s and after the first democratic election in 1994, was elected to parliament. Ellen Khuzwayo was also a published author.
Fatima Meer, 1987
Judy Seidman, 2002
Caroline Motsoaledi, 2012
In 1984, when Caroline Motsoaledi was the subject of one of the portraits in the A Few South Africans series, she was still working as a seamstress in a clothing factory to support her five children. Her husband, Elias was then on Robben Island, a cellmate of Nelson Mandela. Caroline is photographed here in her home in Soweto. On the wall behind her head is a poster of the Robben Island political prisoners. Elias is the one at top right. Caroline died in December 2014.
Rica Hodgson, 2012
Vesta Smith, 2012
As a child, Vesta Smith hated hearing her mother call her employer ‘baas’ and subsequently ‘just sort of joined in with the people who were rising up against apartheid’. For her lifelong activism, and her long association with the Legal Resources Centre, Vesta she was awarded the Order of Luthuli in Silver, in 2008. This photograph was taken in Vesta’s home in Noordgesig, Johannesburg. Vesta died in 2013, ten months later.
Ilse Fischer, 2013
Ilse Fischer Wilson is the daughter of Bram Fischer, lawyer for Nelson Mandela and the other Treason Trial accused. As a child in a political family, she led a remarkable childhood, surrounded by important figures in the liberation. Visits to her mother in jail and to her father in his underground hiding place were part of Ilse’s growing up, and led to her own activism then, and later, in her university years. This photograph was taken in the garden of Ilse’s Johannesburg home.
Gertrude Shope, 2013
Brigalia Bam, 2013
Brigalia Bam left South Africa as a young woman, and lived in exile for many years, working for the World Council of Churches in Switzerland. She could not come back, as her South African passport had been withdrawn by the State. Since her return to the country in 1988, Brigalia has held many important positions notably that of Chairperson of the first Independent Electoral Commission. She is also the Chancellor of Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape.
Rebecca Kotane, 2013
Rebecca Kotane was born in 1912 in Thaba Nchu in the Free State, and turned 100 in 2012, celebrating her centenary the same year as the African National Congress. Her husband, Moses Kotane, was a leading member of the ANC executive and the Communist party, and a Treason Trial defendant. He went into exile in 1963. He never returned to his homeland, but died in Moscow in 1978.
All Our Mothers is an ongoing series of photo portraits of women dating from 1983. Some of the women, like Amina Cachalia, were photographed first in 1984, then nearly 30 years later, in 2012.
All Our Mothers
Pigment inks on archival paper
Image Size: 39 x 59 cm