Ernest Cole, Photographer

  • Posted: Feb 16, 2011

Ernest Cole, Photographer
Iziko South African National Gallery 25 February – 30 April 2011

The Iziko South African National Gallery aims to be more relevant, representative and inclusive in the selection of its exhibitions, the works it acquires and the audiences it appeals to. Aligned to this vision, the Gallery is proud to host Ernest Cole, Photographer, from 25 February until 30 April 2011.

Ernest Cole passionately believed in his mission to tell the world in photographs what it meant to be black under Apartheid rule. He identified intimately with his subjects, and in photographs of unsurpassed strength and gravitas, he penetrated to the very depths of the existence of black people as they negotiated their lives through the insanity of apartheid and its racist laws and oppression.

Cole left South Africa in order to publish his book, House of Bondage, which was banned in South Africa immediately upon production in 1967. This major critique of apartheid has hardly been seen in this country. After more than 23 years of painful exile, having never returned to South Africa and leaving no known negatives and few prints of his monumental work, Cole died in New York in 1990. An association of Swedish photographers, with whom Cole worked from 1969 to 1975 whenever he stayed in Stockholm, Tio fotografer received a collection of his prints which were later donated to the Hasselblad Foundation.

Never before exhibited internationally, these extremely rare prints, most of them made by Cole himself, are now to be seen publicly for the first time in a major exhibition. Many are uncropped and individually presented, yet they reveal the complex interaction of strength, subtlety and elegance of his photographic ‘seeing’. In honour of Ernest Cole, the Hasselblad Foundation chose South Africa as the first destination for this unique world tour, which started at the Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Future venues include the Red Location Museum, Port Elizabeth; the Durban Art Gallery and Mamelodi, at the University of Pretoria’s Mamelodi Campus library.

Ernest Cole, Photographer is an exhibition by the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Enquiries: Pam Warne, 021 481 3956,


Caption: Earnest boy squats on haunches and strains to follow lesson in heat of packed classroom. [Caption from House of Bondage]

All pictures: © The Ernest Cole Family Trust; The Hasselblad Foundation Collection.

Text & Photographs © Iziko Museums.
Artworks & Artwork Reproductions © Featured Artists.
No photographs of artworks, images or design components incorporating artworks may be reproduced, sold or transmitted in any form without written permission from Iziko Museums.

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