The images presented here are a combination of those made by Nashe ‘Rock’ Iben and myself. The re-photographed prints following were all captioned by Eric John Keru, a Sudanese refugee who became my closest friend at the Kraal.
In the space of Cape Town’s urban sprawl one can trace the lines of apartheid zoning policies designed to keep black from white. Today these lines remain visible as divides between wealth and poverty.
The Wash House Quarry was named in colonial times after its purpose — a slave driven laundry for the wealthy. It is located at the bottom of the Bo-Kaap, on the slopes of Signal Hill, and was home to the only informal settlement found within the boundaries of the Cape Town CBD. The residents called their community ‘The Kraal’ — the term for a traditional African village of huts typically enclosed by a fence. In the context of this community the term is imbued with notions of safety and protection — yet also the paradoxical lack thereof.
When I began photographing here the quarry was home to roughly one hundred residents housed in shanty-town style shelters, which formed a misshapen landscape of wood and corrugated iron. Perched above, accessible only by treacherous winding paths, were a number of separate camps of refugees divided by stark boundaries of nationality, faith and political stance. I photographed this marginalised community from 2012 to 2016, after which time residents were relocated to housing programmes in the Cape Flats. There are propositions to develop the land into high-end apartments, thus continuing the cycle of systematic spatial division implemented by the apartheid regime and the colonial rule that came before.
While documenting The Kraal, I became concerned with notions of my purpose as a documentary photographer. I began to explore ways of creating photographs that were relevant to the people that they represented. As an attempt to distance myself from sole authorship, I gave a camera to artist and resident — Nashe ‘Rock’ Iben.