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FRONTIERE BORDERS FRONTERAS (article first published : 2004-01-28)

The Heritage Department of the eThekwini Municipality begins its programme of commemorating Ten Years of Democracy in South Africa with the opening of an exhibition entitled Frontiere Borders Fronteras.

Undertaken in association with the Italian Consulate, Durban, the exhibition is a photographic exposition of involuntary migration and refugee movement in different parts of the world. The exhibition was photographed and devised by Giuseppe Lanzi, Director of the Scalabrini Development Agency in Cape Town. The organisation, part of an international Scalabrini network, provides, inter alia, a multi-faceted, skills-based service to refugee communities.

Giuseppe Lanzi's exhibition provides valuable and penetrating insights into a worldwide phenomenon: the displacement and disappropriation of large numbers of people around the world. The photographer's appreciation of the subject is evident. The images invoke stories of hardship and adversity as well as those of endurance and courage under conditions of extreme difficulty. It also addresses the presence of borders at institutional and physical as well as conceptual levels.

The work presents an opportune moment, as South Africa celebrates 10 years of democracy, to seriously interrogate and engage this subject in all its complexity. As the escalating number of peoples from Africa and other parts of the world seeking refuge in Durban and other South African cities becomes increasingly apparent and as SAs nascent democracy attempts to define its responsibilities to these dispossessed groupings, new and more effective channels need to be opened up for communication and dialogue.

The subject should not be unfamiliar to South Africans. The forced movement of people at a global level for a variety of reasons, has clear resonances between the internal dislocation of people during the apartheid era. 'Forced removals', 'Group Areas', 'Black Spots', 'No-go areas' are all still very recognisable terms.

The construction of these borders was instituted through a variety of legislated controls and dictated almost every aspect of South African life under apartheid. It is therefore entirely appropriate that the exhibition will be installed at Durban's Kwa Muhle Museum. As the Native Affairs Department, it implemented the Durban System, the first incarnation of urban racial segregation which arose from the need to control and monitor the African migrant population crossing the city's borders as labourers.

This system eventually constituted one of the cornerstones of apartheid legislation in the form of the Influx Control Act. It effectively created institutional borders around cities to ensure white privilege and dominance: millions of South Africans were automatically dispossessed by a single piece of legislation.

Similar practices of exclusion, resulting in xenophobia, prejudice and hostility face refugee communities on a daily basis. This exhibition provides an ideal vantage point from which to explore the issue at local level. A discussion forum entitled Transcending Borders will be held from 10h30 to 11h30 at Kwa Muhle Musuem on February 5.

Frontiere Borders Fronteras opens on February 5 at 17h30 for 18h00. The guest speaker will be Dr Michael Sutcliffe, Ethekwini Municipal Manager. More information on 031 311 2223 or e-mail: mcclureg@crsu.durban.gov.za




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