if you think you aren’t familiar with the work of South African photographic artist Pieter Hugo, you will most certainly recognise his iconic series The Hyena Men. and if not, then his latest exhibition 1994 is a great introduction to his work.
1994 comprises portraits of children born after 1994 in two countries, South Africa and Rwanda. Major historical events took place in both these countries in 1994, and this series depicts a generation of children growing up in a post-revolutionary era, when the possibility of change was definite while its realisation remains uncertain.
Most of the images were taken in villages around Rwanda and South Africa. There’s a thin line between nature being seen as idyllic and as a place where terrible things happen – permeated by genocide, a constantly contested space. Seen as a metaphor, it’s as if the further you leave the city and its systems of control, the more primal things become. At times the children appear conservative, existing in an orderly world; at other times there’s something feral about them, as in Lord of the Flies, a place devoid of rules. This is most noticeable in the Rwanda images where clothes donated from Europe, with particular cultural significations, are transposed into a completely different context.