5th Dec 2018 5:30pm-7:00pm

Grand Parade, G4.


Dr Kylie Thomas (Visiting Fellow, University of Brighton)

Image: Poster drawing attention to the detention, poisoning and disappearance of Siphiwo Mtimkulu: Student Leader Detained. Poisoned. Missing, 1982  

Drinks from 5pm, starts at 5:30. All welcome.

After the close of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, there were still hundreds of unresolved cases of people who had been killed under apartheid. The Missing Persons Task Team was established to investigate these cases and has subsequently located and exhumed the remains of many activists. This paper will argue for thinking about the relation between photography and exhumation and will focus on the potential for photographs to bring buried histories into the light. The paper will examine the case of Siphiwo Mtimkulu, an anti-apartheid student activist who was abducted and murdered by the security police in April 1982, together with his comrade, Tobekile “Topsy” Madaka. The remains of Mtimkulu and Madaka were located in 2007, ten years after the security police who murdered them lied at the Truth Commission about the facts concerning how they were tortured and killed. I will engage with photographs of Mtimkulu taken before his disappearance and kept by his family, and will consider both how these images entered public circulation and what they mean in the present. I will focus in particular on how the state-sanctioned commemoration of the deaths of these activists constitutes a form of erasure and on how photographs can provide a way to contest post-apartheid amnesia.

Biographical Note:

Kylie Thomas is an Associate Researcher at the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice, University of the Free State, South Africa. She writes about photography, violence and memory during and after apartheid. She is the author of Impossible Mourning: HIV/AIDS and Visuality after apartheid (Bucknell University Press and Wits University Press, 2014) and co-editor of Photography in and out of Africa: Iterations with Difference (Routledge, 2015). She currently holds a British Academy Visiting Fellowship at the University of Brighton and is writing a book about women photographers and resistance.