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South African Photographs: David Goldblatt

May 2, 2010 - September 19, 2010

1652 | 1806 | 1910 | 1948 | 1995

Dutch Colonialism

After Portuguese explorers round the Cape in 1488 to secure a sea route to Asia, in 1652 the Dutch East India Company establishes a fort at Cape Town, imports slaves, clashes with indigenous groups—the Xhosa and Khoikhoi—over land, cattle, and their integration into the work force on expanding farms. Colonial authorities discourage intermarriage as well as any religious expression outside Reformed Protestantism. Dutch rule at the Cape ends in 1806.

British Colonialism

In 1808, Britain bans the slave trade, but not the ownership of slaves, and soon a “pass system” is introduced to regulate the movement of blacks. The first English settlers—5,000 in total—arrive in 1820 to settle on land seized from the Xhosa.
While slavery is abolished in 1834, slaves still have to serve four-year “apprenticeships” to “prepare them for freedom.” Some 10,000 white farmers of predominantly Dutch descent—angry at the changing legal status of slaves—leave the Cape in 1835. They form the nucleus of the new Boer or Afrikaner republics. The discovery of diamonds and gold creates a demand for cheap labor and leads to conflicts between whites and blacks. The British defeat the Boers in the Anglo- Boer War (1899–1902).

The Union of South Africa

The treaty that ends the Anglo-Boer War combines the British colonial territories with Afrikaner republics to establish self-rule for whites. A new constitution includes a color bar that restricts voting to whites. Black resistance leads to the establishment of the African National Congress in 1912. Laws that restrict the sale of land to blacks and creates black reserves are introduced. Whites control eighty percent of arable land for farming. The Communist Party, formed in 1921, is the first political organization to open its ranks to blacks. The National Party, which promotes racism and segregation, emerges as the political representative of Afrikaner interests. Among its leaders and supporters are vocal supporters of Hitler and the Nazi Party. In 1948, the National Party wins the election and institutes apartheid as the official government policy.


David GoldblattSouth Africa

David Goldblatt graduates from Krugersdorp High School and attempts to become a magazine photographer. When this fails, he goes to work in the menswear shop owned by his father, Eli Goldblatt.The National Party (NP) wins parliamentary elections and begins apartheid as official government policy.

The African National Congress (ANC), adopts a
“Program of Action” to openly defy apartheid laws.

The Immorality Act makes sexual relations between
different races illegal.

The Population Registration Act records every South
African’s race as either white, colored, black, or Asian.

The Group Areas Act establishes residential
segregation and empowers the government to
remove ethnic groups and resettle them elsewhere.
It is estimated that 3.5 million people are relocated
between 1960 and 1983.

The Bantu Authorities Act establishes the black
homelands and increases the powers of “tribal

The first issue of Drum, a new magazine aimed
at urban black readers, appears on newsstands.

Goldblatt takes his first trip to Israel.Nearly 100,000 people take part in a yearlong
“Defiance Campaign” organized by the ANC
and South African Indian Congress.

Laws are enacted requiring all black South Africans
to carry “identity” pass books, at all times.

The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act enforces
segregation between the races in public buildings
and on public transport.

Sophiatown, a largely black working-class
neighborhood in Johannesburg, is declared a
white area and residents are forcibly removed to
Soweto. The new white suburb is named Triomf,
Afrikaans for triumph.

Goldblatt marries Lily Psek.Supporters of the ANC and its allies gather outside
Johannesburg to adopt the “Freedom Charter” which
demands, “The People Shall Govern!”

Hendrik Verwoerd becomes prime minister;
he is called “the architect of Apartheid.”

The Bantu Self-Government Act divides blacks
into eight ethnic groups and assigns them each
a homeland.

Sixty-nine African demonstrators are murdered
and more than 150 are wounded by police in
Sharpeville township, west of Johannesburg.

ANC President Albert Luthuli is awarded
the Nobel Peace Prize.

The government bans the ANC and other opposition
movements. Many ANC leaders go into exile.

The ANC engages in armed struggle, forming a
guerrilla army, Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the
Nation). They attack government installations.

The South African government withdraws from the
British Commonwealth and declares itself the
Republic of South Africa.

All but one of the Progressive Party members of
Parliament are defeated in the election, leaving
Helen Suzman the only opposition member of
Parliament for the following thirteen years. Suzman
speaks out vociferously against apartheid and
becomes a world-renowned voice for change.

After the death of his father, Goldblatt sells the shop and, the following year, becomes a full-time photographer.

Begins photographing Afrikaners, a project that will become the book Some Afrikaners Photographed
Nelson Mandela, leader of the ANC’s armed wing, is arrested and sentenced to five years for inciting
protests and leaving the country illegally without a

The United Nations adpots a resolution calling for
a worldwide arms embargo against South Africa.
The U.N. General Assembly demands an end to
the prosecution of Mandela and other ANC leaders
as well as the release of all political prisoners
opposed to apartheid.

Looksmart Ngudle, an ANC activist, dies in police

Works for South African Tatler magazine until the following year.Ten leaders of the ANC—including Mandela—are
tried for sabotage at the Rivonia Trials. Most are
sentenced to life in prison. Mandela is taken to
Robben Island prison.

Goldblatt begins photographing the mines.

Prime Minister Verwoerd is assassinated and
succeeded by John Vorster, who openly
supported the Nazis during World War II.

District Six, a neighborhood of coloreds and blacks
in central Cape Town is declared a white area. Two
years later its residents’ houses are demolished.

The University Christian Movement that would
later become the Black Consciousness Movement
is founded. Led by medical student Steve Biko, it
dominates internal resistance in the 1970s.

The Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act is passed,
which requires all black South Africans to become
citizens of one of ten tribal homelands regardless
of where they live.

Goldblatt spends six months photographing in Soweto.

Collaborates on book On the Mines with Nadine Gordimer.Black workers strike in Durban yielding black
unionization, which later plays a key role in
political resistance.

Solo exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery, London.The United Nations suspends South Africa from
working at the General Assembly because of
apartheid policies.

Publishes book Some Afrikaners Photographed.

Work exhibited at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
The Inkatha Freedom Party is founded by Mangosuthu
Gatsha Buthelezi, the chief minister of the homeland
of KwaZulu in Natal Province.

Photographs the neighborhood Fietas during the Forced Removals, which continue into the next year.Prime Minister Vorster visits Israel and signs trade,
military, and technical agreements between the two

In June black students in Soweto protest against the
use of Afrikaans as a compulsory language in schools.
The riots spread countrywide and take on a larger
political agenda. Nearly 500 protesters are murdered
by security forces.

Steve Biko, charismatic leader of the Black
Consciousness Movement, is murdered in
police custody.

P.W. Botha, the minister of defense, becomes prime
minister after Vorster retires.

Begins photographing in Boksburg, a small middle-class white community near Johannesburg.Black trade unions are legalized and gain the right to

Neighboring Zimbabwe gains its independence from
whites-only rule.

Publishes book In Boksburg.Hard-line right-wing Afrikaners opposed to any reform
of apartheid leave the NP and form the Conservative

Begins photographing extensive daily commutes endured by relocated Africans for project The Transported of KwaNdebele.The United Democratic Front (UDF), a coalition of
more than 500 antiapartheid organizations, is formed
and openly sides with the ANC. It becomes the largest
political organization inside the country since the ANC
was banned in 1960.

Desmond Tutu, a cleric and UDF activist, is awarded
Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent stance against

David Goldblatt: In Black and White documentary filmed and screened by British television network Channel 4 and subsequently screened in the United States by PBS.In July, P. W. Botha declares a countrywide State of
Emergency resulting in the arrest and detention of
thousands of mostly black South Africans. The media
is banned from documenting police actions and

Collaborates on book Lifetimes Under Apartheid with Nadine Gordimer.

The Mixed Marriages Act and the pass laws are

Liberals and businessmen of various ethnic
backgrounds begin to meet with the ANC to discuss
peaceful solutions to the violence in South Africa.

Establishes the Market Photography Workshop in Johannesburg,

Publishes book The Transported of KwaNdebele.
F. W. de Klerk replaces Botha as NP leader and as president,
following an internal power struggle.

On February 2, President F. W. de Klerk announces
negotiations with the antiapartheid opposition and lifts
the ban on 30 antiapartheid organizations, including the
ANC, PAC, and Communist Party.

Nelson Mandela is freed after twenty-seven years
in prison.

Political exiles begin to return to South Africa.

The United States lifts most of its economic sanctions
against South Africa.

South African writer Nadine Gordimer is awarded the
Nobel Prize for Literature

Awarded the Gahan Fellowship in Photography at Harvard University.Whites vote overwhelmingly to approve a referendum
supporting the reforms announced by De Klerk two
years earlier.

Popular ANC leader Chris Hani is murdered by white
right-wing activists.

Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Klerk are jointly awarded
the Nobel Peace Prize.

South Africa holds its first democratic elections and
the ANC wins with a clear majority. Nelson Mandela
becomes president and apartheid rule ends.

Work is included in the Johannesburg Biennale.The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), with
Desmond Tutu as chair, is established to investigate
human rights abuses perpetrated during the apartheid

The country’s new Constitution, which contains a Bill
of Rights, is passed by Parliament.

Eugene de Kock, the commander of an apartheid
government counterinsurgency unit that had killed
scores of antiapartheid activists, is sentenced to 212
years in jail.

Solo exhibition at Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Publishes book South Africa: the Structure of Things Then.

The ANC wins a decisive election win. Mandela retires
from politics and is succeeded by Thabo Mbeki.

Retrospective David Goldblatt: Fifty-one Years opens at Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. The show travels to New York, Brussels, Johannesburg, Oxford, Lisbon, Munich, and Rotterdam.
New AIDS statistics indicate that 25 percent of South
Africa’s adult population is infected with HIV.

Work is selected for Documenta 11.

Publishes book Particulars, which is awarded the Arles Book Prize of 2004.J. M. Coetzee is awarded the Nobel Prize for

Work is included in History, Memory, Society with Henri Cartier-Bresson and Lee Friedlander at the Tate Modern, London

Work is included in Africa Remix, a large exhibition of contemporary African art at the South Bank Centre, London.

Publishes book Intersections.

Work is exhibited at Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf.
Mbeki, elected for a second term in 2004, fires his
deputy president, Jacob Zuma, over corruption allegations.

Awarded the Hasselblad Photography Award.

Work is exhibited at Rencontres Festival in Arles, France, accompanied by new retrospective book.

Work is selected for Documenta 12.Zuma is elected ANC president after a leadership
battle with Mbeki.

Solo exhibition Intersections Intersected opens at Museum Serralves, Porto, Portugal, and travels to the Malmö Konsthall in Sweden and the New Museum in New York.

Receives the Henri Cartier-Bresson Award.
The ANC recalls president Mbeki. Kgalema Motlanthe
is installed as interim president until the April 2009 elections.
Eleven cabinet members resign.

The ANC wins majority in fourth democratic elections
since the end of apartheid. Zuma is elected president.

Although apartheid rule ended over fifteen years ago
its destructive effects continue to be seen throughout
South Africa today.