“How do we photograph our different ways of recounting history, our reflections, the changes of society?”
(Jo Ractliffe, Afrique du Sud, portraits chromatiques, Arte, 2014)
Border Wars for some, civil war or war of liberation for others, since 2007, Jo Ractliffe (born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1961) has been concerned with the traces and consequences of the Angola conflict (1975-2002), a war of subterfuge, a fiction woven with semi-truths and dissimulations. In three decades of destruction, this real geopolitical cataclysm has, between Agostinho Neto’s proclamation of independence in 1975 and the death of the leader of Unita’s rebel faction, Jonas Savimbi, in 2002, resulted in more than one and a half million victims. At the same time, the armed struggle for Namibia’s independence between 1966 and 1989 would intensify the clashes. Namibia had been under South Africa rule since 1920, and while apartheid policies were not applied until the late 1960s, the territory was subjected to harsh forms of segregation. Colonial violence, cold war by proxy, apartheid, dispossession, reconciliation, Jo Ractliffe’s work sets in pictures the scars of a crisis situated at the intersection of multiple narratives. Archiving and remembering, sometimes unmapped, forgotten landscapes, Jo Ractliffe’s black and white photographic images map the inerasable traumas of a distant war.
One exhibition in two places for three publications Jo Ractliffe, After War is organized by the Fondation A Stichting and erg with the cooperation of the Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, and of Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography, Amsterdam. It coincides with the publication of Jo Ractliffe’s third book, The Borderlands, by RM.