Life in the Liberated Zone

David Lurie

The squatter camps of South Africa’s Cape Town, photographed after the apartheid government’s abandonment of the Pass Laws in the late 1980s.

Rian Malan wrote the original Side Gallery exhibition text in 1990: ‘ Five years ago the bleak salt flats outside Cape Town were empty and desolate, nothing there but sand dunes, scrub, thousands of corrugated iron toilets shaped like sentry boxes and wind blowing sand around. Now it’s a city of sorts, a metropolis of shacks and shanties, as densely packed and alley-riven as a walled medieval city, and populated by fantastic characters – bootleggers, Cape Rastas, ‘daggarokers’ (dope smokers), witch doctors, thugs and revolutionaries plus a million ordinary working people for whom life is very tough. It’s a liberated zone of sorts…

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