Sara Terry: Forgiveness & Conflict, Landscapes from Nelson Mandela’s South Africa

Art Scene

Sara Terry: Forgiveness & Conflict, Landscapes from Nelson Mandela’s South Africa

Oftentimes, landscape photography brings to mind the epic qualities of an Ansel Adams photograph or unpopulated terrain in a variety of natural forms such as waterways, deserts, a field of flowers, mountains, valleys or rolling hills. Increasingly desolate landscapes, war torn territories or forgotten zones left uninhabited have entered into the conversation as well, particularly in the case of the work of photographer Sara Terry. In her solo exhibition, Sara Terry: Forgiveness & Conflict, Landscapes from Nelson Mandela’s South Africa, a fascinating exploration of the inextricable links between land, time, memory and human beings unfolds.

Sara Terry, Tugela River

For the general public, a cursory knowledge of the fall of Apartheid in South Africa and the legend of Nelson Mandela have been etched into collective consciousness. However, the deeper nuances and day to day intricacies tied to specific people and places are available only to those who seek them out. Sara Terry has laid out a series of 18 landscape photographs accompanied by informative wall revealing various layers of history, social structures and pivotal moments in the evolution of South Africa as a society that may leave viewers wanting more.

Sara Terry, Orania

In a photograph titled, Orania, dry red earth, stones and patches of tall glass begin in the foreground of the image and fade into a distant empty landscape. However, the heart of the photograph features 5 statues of apartheid-era leaders of South Africa. Wall text reveals that the site, located in the Northern Cape Province, is the location of an Afrikaner-only community founded in 1990 by the son-in-law of former Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, the originator of the apartheid state. The community of 1,000 residents was founded a few months after the hard-won repeal of South Africa’s apartheid laws and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. The long-term goal of this geographic project, grounded in the landscape, is to inspire more Afrikaner-only towns to take shape, ultimately leading to an independent Afrikaner state.

Sara Terry, Robben Island Quarry

Another image, Liliesleaf Farm, tells the story through image and text of a site secretly used in the 1960s by members of the African National Congress, including Nelson Mandela. Working as a farmer under the assumed name of David Matsamayi, Mandela used the site to strategize with other members of the ANC, including its armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, as part of the movements underground resistance. Liliesleaf Farm is also where Mandela and 18 other members of the ANC were arrested after a raid by South African security forces, resulting in his subsequent sentence to life in prison on Robben Island, where he served 18 of his 27 years imprisoned.

Sara Terry, East London City Hall Hearing Room

Numerous historical details of South Africa’s road to freedom and its ongoing roadblocks that will beguile viewers are revealed in Terry’s presentation – perhaps even adding to an increased contemplation of the complexity of cultural coexistence across continents and time.

Sara Terry: Forgiveness & Conflict, Landscapes from Nelson Mandela’s South Africa is on view at United Photo Industries through May 26, 2018.