A just image: South African hostels and contemporary South African photography

This research examines the representation of the South African migrant hostels within the conceptual frame of a ‘just image’, adopted here from Roland Barthes’s text Camera Lucida (1987). Barthes (1980:71) used this term to describe a photograph he found of his mother as a child: not only did the photograph offer what he sees as a truthful physical description of her but, also describes the photograph as ‘indeed essential’ because it achieved ‘utopically, the impossible Science of the unique being’, a characterisation of her ‘essential being’. This dissertation argues that despite common narratives about the hostels and their history, hostels have become a complex environment with various structures, traditions, and cultures which cannot be pinned down to their impoverished conditions. Using the medium of photography I also argue that the photographic description of the elements in the frame (a document of past presence), has the ability to trigger aspects which are not physically seen. I describe these affects in terms of their ‘spiritual’ senses. One aspect is memory. I look at Santu Mofokeng in: Chasing Shadows (2011) where he uses photography to capture presence and absence, and to trigger memory which is drawn from one’s subjectivity. I also look at Yto Barrada’s project A Life Full of Holes: The Strait Project (1998 - 2004), where she speaks about her hybrid status of growing up in two countries with different cultures. This allowed me to interrogate photographic hybridity and my own hybrid identity, which I have utilised to compile this research
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Humanities, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master’s of Arts in Fine Art by Dissertation. 2018
Bucibo, Nocebo. (2019). A just image :South African hostels and contemporary South African photography. University of the Witwatersrand, https://hdl.handle.net/10539/27388