From Publishers Weekly
South African photographer Jillian Edelstein’s stark, memorable black-and-white photographs are the centerpiece of Truth & Lies: Stories from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Between 1996 and 2000, Edelstein photographed dozens of victims, witnesses and perpetrators ANC activists, apartheid police officers and government officials, family members of those tortured and killed at the hearings and at their homes across South Africa.
The photos are supplemented with the subjects’ harrowing personal testimonies, Edelstein’s crisp reportage and excerpts from the diary she kept throughout the project.
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More than three years after its report came out, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) continues to be a model for countries dealing with issues of guilt, amnesty, and forgiveness. Edelstein is a white South African photojournalist whose moving, full-page, black-and-white photographs, with brief profiles and quotes, bring readers up close to the victims, the perpetrators, and the court proceedings. As Michael Ignatieff says in his fine introduction, the portraits prevent abstraction. Sentimentality disappears.
A torturer poses with macho confidence, proud of himself; Edelstein wonders why he agreed to be photographed.
One mother holds a handful of the hair of her son, murdered by the security police. A member of the TRC, Pumla Gobida-Madikizela, brings things into the present by discussing the role of the white bystanders to apartheid: they didn’t do the killing, but they are the “beneficiaries”; she calls on them to end their silence.
These are strong, disturbing images and ideas, sure to engage those concerned with apartheid history and with racism and reparations here and abroad. Hazel Rochman
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[A] testimony to the necessity of looking at what happened. — Gillian Slovo, author of Red Dust
Startling side-by-side portraits of victims and perpetrators of apartheid, by an award-winning South African photographer. Jillian Edelstein made her first visit to a South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing in 1997. What the South African-born, prize-winning photographer saw and heard moved her to begin a four-year project photographing the people who were to come forward, both victims and villains, black and white.
Eventually, Edelstein traveled the length and breadth of South Africa, compiling an extraordinary record of jarring and moving images, in each case recording her subject’s personal stories: from atrocities suffered to crimes committed. Her stories and portraits, intriguingly paired on facing pages, provide a remarkable insight into South Africa’s recent history and the awesome difficulty of overcoming it. More than twenty thousand victims, hoping for justice and reparation, made statements to the commissioners in hearings all over South Africa, as did seven thousand perpetrators, who, encouraged by the possibility of amnesty, came forward to confess their crimes.
Truth & Lies pairs more than 100 beautifully wrought black-and-white photographs, combining portraiture, landscape, and documentary photography with recorded testimony and interviews, which provide a deeply personal perspective on one of the most important social and political transitions of our time. Major new essays by Michael Ignatieff, professor of the practice of human rights policy at Harvard University, and Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, South African psychologist and member of the TRC, assess the legacy of the commission’s work for South Africa, and, indeed, the world. 115 b/w photographs.
About the Author
Jillian Edelstein‘s photographs have been exhibited in London, Paris, and Johannesburg. She won the Visa d’Or at the International Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan in 1997. Her portraits have been published in many periodicals including the New York Times Magazine, the [London] Sunday Times Magazine, National Geographic, and the New Yorker. She lives in London.
Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela joined the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996 as a member of the Human Rights Violations Committee and coordinated and chaired victims’ public hearings in the Western Cape. She has been a visiting fellow at the University of Southern California, the University of Michigan, UCLA, and Harvard University, and is currently affiliated with the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at the Harvard Divinity School.