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On-line version ISSN 2309-9585
Print version ISSN 0259-0190


MASON, John Edwin. Picturing the beloved country: Margaret Bourke-White, Life Magazine, and South Africa, 1949-1950. Kronos [online]. 2012, vol.38, n.1, pp.154-176. ISSN 2309-9585.

In 1949 and 1950, the pioneering female photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White spent five months in southern Africa, producing four photo-essays for Life, one of America's most widely read magazines. Two of the essays, which dealt with South Africa in particular, were Americans' visual introduction to apartheid. The first essay depicted the dedication of the Voortrekker Monument and naively reproduced Afrikaner nationalist ideologies. Appearing several months later, the more substantial of the two essays was a surprisingly vigorous condemnation of racial oppression and labour exploitation at the beginning of the apartheid era. While it remains one of the most compelling photo-essays ever to appear in Life, the decision that Bourke-White and her editors made to avoid showing or mentioning black activism undermined its analysis. The close ties between labour unions, black political groups, and the Communist Party of South Africa made the subject taboo in the strongly anti-communist political climate of post-war America.

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