Today’s image is from the In Search of the San section of Paul Weinberg’s exhibition, Here and There, and it captures another poignant and surreal moment of Southern African history.
Elections, Bushman land, Aruru, Namibia (1989) shows a UN helicopter delivering ballot papers to this region for the election that was to result in Namibia’s independence from South Africa. This was the first time that the people of Bushman land, the San, had ever voted, and the concept of elections and having a ruler was completely foreign to them.
This startling intrusion of the western world is captured perfectly in the image of a naked San child staring up the UN helicopter with a sense of awe and amazement that we can only imagine. The only thing it could perhaps be compared to is the science fiction scenario of seeing a UFO hovering over one’s back garden.
However as in the previous image discussed, the child’s innocence and awed acceptance of whatever the world may bring is harshly contrasted with the plight of Southern Africa’s indigenous peoples.
Paul Weinberg began his search for the San (documented in his book of the same title) in 1984 and found, instead of the harmonious hunter-gatherer paradise that is key to western mythology about the bushman, a people displaced and dispossessed, living in a state of trauma.
Although this is a UN helicopter, a representative of those trying to help rectify some of the wrongs done to these people, the knowledge of the havoc wreaked by this alien race on those unable to defend themselves is harrowing.
However for a moment, captured here, is a moment of pure wonder, the science fiction dream or miraculous manifestation.