Last week I dragged my best friend and boyfriend out after work (and a bit of a big one the night before) to go and check out Pieter Hugo’s latest exhibition, ‘1994,’ which opened at First Thursdays at STEVENSON Gallery in Woodstock, Cape Town.
For a few of us, the first time we caught sight of one of Hugo’s incredibly emotional and hyper-realistically eerie photographic series, was of ‘Hyena Men’ which was published in 2007 and showcased formidable figures curated out of tradition tribal man-skirts, aggression, fearless eyes and the spine-chilling presence of massive, snarling hyenas on chains at their feet and in their children’s pudgy arms.
‘1994,’ was laid out in glowing colours on the stark and beautiful STEVENSON space and gripped you upon entry. No matter how dark the circles beneath your eyes were, they opened up again when you walked in and saw the children.
The series explores a metaphor of the thin and beautiful yet dangerous relationship between humans, each other and nature. Children of all ages, races, dressed in regalia dripping in sequins and dirt to perfectly clean religious attire stared out at from their frames, at the mostly black-clad visitors. And that is just what we were, visitors that had intruded upon their home without asking and we were now being watched as closely as we were watching them.
“1994 comprises portraits of children born after 1994 in two countries, South Africa and Rwanda. Major historical events took place in both these countries in 1994, and this series depicts a generation of children growing up in a post-revolutionary era, when the possibility of change was definite while its realisation remains uncertain.
Most of the images were taken in villages around Rwanda and South Africa. There’s a thin line between nature being seen as idyllic and as a place where terrible things happen – permeated by genocide, a constantly contested space.”
‘1994’ will be running until the 14th of July 2016.
Images are courtesy of STEVENSON Gallery.