archive: first published on 18 March 2014
Held between March and April 2014, Consigned for Future Memory presented at PR1 Gallery and the Centre for Contemporary Art, University of Central Lancashire, brought together a selection of images taken by South African photographer George Hallett during his life in exile in the 1970s and 1980s.
Born in Cape Town in 1942, George Hallett began his career as a street photographer and freelanced for the iconic Drum magazine with editor Jacky Heyns in 1964. In 1966, when the apartheid government declared the mixed neighbourhood of District Six (in Cape Town) a White area, Hallett was encouraged by writer and artist Peter Clarke, and protest poet James Matthews, to document the area before the forced removals and destruction began. Hallett’s District Six series (1968), displayed at the Centre for Contemporary Art, announces the development of his interest in collective memory and the recording of the present for future generations.
The photographs on show at PR1 Gallery consisted primarily of portraits – a genre for which Hallett has gained international recognition. These retrace moments of his life in exile through the figures that have played an important role in the formation of his intellectual frame of thought, and stimulated the creative exchanges reflected in his work.
The exhibition began with images evoking Hallett’s links to literary circles in South Africa and England where he settled in 1970. In London, Hallett was introduced to Diane Spencer then editor of the Times Educational Supplement for which he covered several socio-educational stories. He has also been an important creative collaborator of Heinemann’s African Writers Series. Working with editor James Currey, Hallett designed innovative book covers for the series that contributed to disseminate twentieth-century African literature to the world. Some of these images and books were presented in both spaces.
The display continued with Hallett’s encounter with the London-based South African exile community recorded through compelling portraits of visual artists, like Dumile Feni (1942-1991), Louis Maqhubela, Gavin Jantjes; and the documentation of performances by jazz musicians Chris MacGregor (1936-1990) and his band the Brotherhood of Breath, Dudu Pukwana (1938-1990), Joe Gumede, Louis Moholo and percussionist Eugene Skeef. The show concluded with portraits of anti-apartheid activists Yusuf Dadoo (1909-1983), Marimuth Pragalathan Naicker (1920-1977), Pallo Jordan who went on to become cabinet minister from 1994 to 2009. The two pictures of the late Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), whom Hallett followed during his presidential campaign, mark the end of a twenty-four-year exile that also took him to France and the Netherlands. These images are part of a series that earned him a World Press Photo Award in 1995.
Consigned for Future Memory was organised by Making Histories Visible an interdisciplinary research platform led by Professor Lubaina Himid at UCLan’s Centre for Contemporary Art. The exhibition coincided with George Hallett’s presence at UCLan as part of the Distinguished Visitor Programme.
Consigned for Future Memory
17 March – 11 April 2014
PR1 Gallery and Centre for Contemporary Art
Public Lecture by Photographer George Hallett
Thursday 20 March 2014 at 6.30pm
University of Central Lancashire
Foster Lecture Theatre 4
View photo gallery here.