Here follows the opening remarks of long-time colleague, friend and fellow photographer, Peter McKenzie at the occasion of the opening of my exhibition ‘Unsettled: 100 Years War of Resistance by Xhosa Against Boer and British’ at the KZNSA Gallery in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal on the 13th of May, 2015.
“Cedric’s work is for me a form of re-appropriation of the contentious issue land. The creative act of engaging with a skewed notion of land ownership which makes it vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by power is reigned in and harnessed to serve the real needs transformation and racial equality. It renders land with its due, considerable heft.
That in this case representation entails the possibility of the reclamation, resuscitation and the recuperation of the land and endows the land with meaning that is today conveniently hidden thereby subverting truth.
The distinction between history and heritage, a crucial distinction in this sea of ignorance ignores this distinction at its peril. History as an unavoidable factual narrative and heritage as a means of informing humanity and dignity and in its manifestation as representation defies the wily intent of power.
There is a harking back to the basics of nefarious colonial intent in the perennial contention of the land. You have a problem if you cannot agree with Julius Malema that the land was stolen from black people – finish and klaar!
Cedric: ‘The landscape of South Africa is drenched in blood.’
The gravity of the past and its relationship to the present has been ‘lost in translation’ a translation that has misrepresented current realities and sacrificed truth on the altar of political expediency.
The meaning of land is a philosophy, a way of life that is fundamental to indigenous cultures. The land is at once a means of sustenance and sustainability and also the foundation on which humanity and consequent dignity are evolved and nurtured.
This stolen land, an insistently perpetuated crime bedevils our notions of freedom that are intrinsic to the liberation of the land.
The issue is the land was stolen and needs to be returned to its rightful owners as the tangible asset of liberation and yet a symbol of colonial domination and apartheid dogma. As such it represents the possibility of an illusive freedom and constitutes a significant component of any attempt at transformation.
Cedric’s work in this context takes on the onerous and maybe unsolicited meaning, that of representing this crucial contemporary relevance that is layered with history that which informs, threatens and indicts.
History reaches into the present to make its relevance and voice heard, contributes and nurtures the present yet is cynically manipulated and distorted by power
Cedric’s’s photos indict but also simultaneously offer a glimmer of hope, a way of understanding the malaise of the intent of the venerated Freedom Charter and also the inescapable hold on any type of transformation. Societal freedoms are intrinsic to the notion of the liberation of the land
These landscapes beguile the two dimensionality of the images egging on a curiosity for truth and the third dimension or reading of the photographer’s intent and subject in the present, there is no default position or neutral position allowed. Its time to take sides again!
In the book’s introduction the project is described as a way to “engage in a discussion that highlights the complexity of our perception of place, space and belonging”.
Land, and landscape in South Africa, it points out, are imbued with its racial and apartheid history and with “conjectures of ownership, belonging and identity”.
Nunn’s artistic vision is thus truly remarkable and refreshing in its unblinking gaze – seeking to not hide but expose the past, wipe the seemingly endless dust of the Eastern Cape out of our eyes and regard with awe, wonder and respect this land on which we stand and contemplate the essence embodied in this rich soil.
“Through revisiting the painful past, in the contemporary scenes from today, this work attempts to place the present in its factual context of dispossession and conquest and we begin to understand the dysfunctionality of a people vanquished through generations of open warfare.”