Join South African photographer Cedric Nunn for a discussion of his most recent project, Unsettled: 100 Years War of Resistance by Xhosa Against Boer and British, published by Archipelago to accompany Nunn’s exhibition of the same title at David Krut Projects (fall 2015). Nunn’s photo essay reclaims a marginalized history of colonial resistance by excavating its brutal remains, unsettling a whitewashed memory, and exposing the scars of oppression and defiance.
In conversation with academic and senior editor of the magazine, Africa is a Country, M. Neelika Jayawardane.
Unsettled, South African photographer Cedric Nunn (best known for his photographs of apartheid resistance) turns his lens to the landscape of the Eastern Cape, site of the longest and most complex anti-colonial confrontation in South Africa’s history: The 100 Year War of Resistance. Spanning a century and encompassing nine discrete Frontier Wars, the resistance of the Xhosa, against the colonizing forces of, first the Boers and then the British, was an incredible feat that has been all but erased from the history books. Nunn’s photo essay attempts to reclaim that lost history by engaging with the landscape of that resistance: as the Xhosa traditional homeland, as the site of surprising victories and devastating defeats, as the site of horrific massacres and mass population displacements, and as the modern-day Eastern Cape facing its own challenges. Nunn captures colonial scars in the form of ruins, environmental damage, displaced people, and acts of erasure. But the project itself is a reclamation of Xhosa history and the Xhosa perspective of the Frontier Wars, and as such Nunn also uncovers acts of memory and excavates recollections long buried. Additional historical, contextual, and critical commentary is provided by Zakes Mda, Jeff Peires, and M. Neelika Jayawardane. Cedric Nunn’s Unsettled is an important document and serves as a first step in recognizing the importance of the Xhosa resistance to the history of the Eastern Cape and South Africa.
Cedric Nunn was born in 1957 in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and was raised in Hluhluwe, Mangete, and Baynesfield. He began his career as a professional photographer at the age of 25, working in Durban and then Johannesburg out of a desire to document the realities of apartheid that were being ignored by the mainstream media. A key focus of his work has always been documenting social change. He was a longstanding member of the now defunct Afrapix collective, worked frequently with NGOs, and was the director of the Market Photography Workshop. He now lives in KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg.
David Krut Projects, New York and Johannesburg, exhibited works from Nunn’s Unsettled series in the fall of 2015. This was his second solo exhibition with the gallery after his 2012 retrospective, “Call and Response,“ in which a full-length publication was produced with the same title. Both exhibitions were presented in collaboration with Seippel Gallery, Cologne and traveled extensively through Africa and Europe.
M. Neelika Jayawardane is associate professor of English at the State University of New York-Oswego, and an Honorary Research Associate at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa (CISA), University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). She is a senior editor and contributor to the online magazine, Africa is a Country. Jayawardane was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in the Copperbelt Province in Zambia, and completed her university education in the United States. Her academic publications focus on the nexus between South African literature, photography, and the transnational/transhistorical implications of colonialism and apartheid on the body.