Love From Manenberg
“Love From Manenberg” looks at life in Manenberg, South Africa, in particular the everyday experiences of women and their children. The work makes room for complex narratives eschewed by the media and shows the ways families look to the future and manage the joy, grief, and predictability of day-to-day life in a community plagued by violence.
The gang violence in Manenberg, South Africa, has been sensationalized and studied. It is a severe and far-reaching reality, but its roots in oppression have largely been ignored while the neighborhood is flattened to a one-dimensional story of bloodshed, as if the people of Manenberg are not constantly creating moments of humor and grace.
Manenberg was established in the Cape Flats, a vast low-lying sand dune on the outskirts of Cape Town, by the apartheid government in the 1960s. Many of Manenberg’s first residents were forcefully removed from thriving neighborhoods near Cape Town’s city center. The process destroyed the social networks that individuals and families relied on, resulting in a rise of gangs and crime. Almost 30 years since the end of apartheid, Manenberg has not seen the fruits of democracy.
Known as one of South Africa's most violent places, faith, fortitude, and family help the people of Manenberg persevere and prosper. Still, the community is singularly recognized in South African media for its social problems, which include substance abuse and above all, relentless gang violence. According to the Western Cape government, Manenberg residents are three times more likely to be murdered than anywhere else in the country.
I first photographed Manenberg in 2011. I'm especially grateful to the women of the Lottering, Pietersen, and Adams families, who have shared their lives with me with remarkable candor. The title of this series, “Love From Manenberg,” describes the relationships I have formed with those pictured, and others, while working in Manenberg.