June 14, 2010

South Africa: A Study in Contrasts

James Nachtwey

With so many eyes on the soccer matches in South Africa, it’s easy to either stereotype or simply ignore the World Cup host beyond the pitch.  (This racist slideshow at Spiegel, griping about the vuvuzela, is a good example of the former.)

What James Nachtwey and the editors at National Geographic seek to convey is the diversity of the county in a single slideshow.  If you inspect the background, what is particularly ironic about the photo above, of a girl in the Kliptown neighborhood of Soweto, is the 2009 election poster of President Zuma affixed to the wall.

As the images progress from more to less impoverished, however, it’s interesting to compare this much different image of children in Alexandra township.

The caption:

Once a rarity for black children, ballet classes are now a treat three times a week in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township, thanks to an outreach program of the South African Ballet Theatre. Before apartheid ended in 1994, “a whole generation was denied access to classical ballet,” says Samantha Saevitzon, a company spokeswoman. Now a new generation has the opportunity to prepare for careers in dance.

Now, go back and look at the girl with the apple in the first image, and the way she is standing.

Slideshow: Mandela’s Children.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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