In the separate-but-equal South Africa of the past, ‘homelands’ encapsulated the ideology of Grand Apartheid; where thirsty places far from industrial nodes were made ‘the home’ of millions of ‘non-whites.’ In the same ambitious brush stroke, a reverse full-circle-moment is being played out on the moistureless Great Karoo tablelands of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province.
© Nico Krijno, Untitled, 2013. From the series ‘Fabricated To Be Photographed.’
There, a small group of determined Afrikaners have carved out an enclave for themselves in their own outré form of land restitution. A previously abandoned area of poor quality land far from anything is now a germinating volkstaat. A follow-up attempt at their own ‘homeland,’ the Afrikaners of Orania balance their vision precariously on the thin line between self determination and discrimination. “It’s an idea, an ideal in my heart that makes Orania different,” muses the very moving Carel Boshoff, founder of the outpost and son-in-law of Hendrik-the-architect-of-Apartheid Verwoerd, in a new documentary ‘Orania,’ by German film maker Tobias Linder.
The point of the enclave is to preserve Afrikaans and Afrikaans culture. Yet when taken even ambivalently, the feeling that Orania is made up of those who couldn’t cut it elsewhere can’t be shook. Just under six million people speak Afrikaans as a home language in South Africa today, not including Namibia, or the small groups in Botswana or Zimbabwe, making Afrikaans an everyday and mundane thing in the landscape of South Africa. Essentially the need for a place like Orania is redundant. Afrikaans is a loaded language. The curious tensions which underlie the quotidian nature of Afrikaans in the multifariousness that is South Africa break out in queer ways, and Orania is a good example. In the pursuit of their ultimate truth Oranians fall on the side of exclusion rather than preservation; their aspirations forbid the hyper rainbow reality of contemporary South Africa.
More in-tune with the dreams and ambitions of the rest of the nation, there is a photographer in South Africa working to compel a conversation by demonstrating that there are not always clear and definitive answers. Nico Krijno parades objects out of context by marrying opposites set within unmistakably South African landscapes. His garbage structures and photos of those sculptures spur a dialogue to probe our experience of reality in a country where the acceptance of assorted realities, is more useful than preservation.
Nico Krijno’s ideas in photography recently played out on another of his South African road trips. This one took him through the Northern Cape and the surrounding areas of Orania where he took some exteriors and interiors of Oranian abodes, then merrily went to work building his objects and towers to new meaning in the fields of a social landscape at odds with the rest of the nation.
Nico Krijno started taking photos at a very young age while growing up in a small town in the South African semi desert, before venturing to Cape Town to pursue his career in photography and film, using commercial, fashion & architectural commissions to support an independent, fine-art practice. Krijno’s subject matter is wildly eclectic; sausages and carrots on a blindingly bright tropical shirt or a schoolgirl holding a snake sit alongside one of several portraits of his muse and girlfriend Mignonne. His photographs are at once hyperreal and otherworldly, pointing at the banality of existence through the semiotics of everyday objects, with humour, sexual innuendo and surreality present in equal measure. Raw and magical, the work contains a dirty realism he is beginning to make his own. His first solo show, ‘On How To Fill Those Gaps’ in late 2011 – and the accompanying self published book – was widely lauded and selected works has since been included in group shows in Edinburgh, Milan, Los Angeles, San-Francisco, Glasgow & London. He was nominated for the Foam Paul Huf Award 2013.
Written by Kyle Tregurtha
Orania | Doing our part to combat immappancy
All images courtesy of the artist. All rights reserved.