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The urgency to record the past and to come to terms with it, is mirrored in the fragility of the photographs I have examined, the representation of humanity lasting only on photographic paper ... off-centre and out of focus ... threatening to disintegrate in my hands, ethereal like the ghosts of the enslaved, the ghost of those who have passed. We have to do this while the memories are still alive, before those who hold the keys to the photographs have all passed. The past has to be accounted for if we are to have any vision of a country where we may live together and our children and grandchildren view each other as simply human.
In her moving reading of family photographs, Nadia Kamies finds complex layers of resistance, desire and self-making, but also of absences, uncertainties and unspoken matters. Rare, fading and treasured, the prints are evocative yet paradoxical, recalling discomforting memories of skin colour and hair texture that determined who mattered, who passed and who fit in.
This beautifully written book arrives at a time when issues of race, belonging and what constitutes our true national identity, seem to feature centrally in a range of public dialogues. Sometimes they appear in ways that threaten to further fragment our flailing democracy. Its arrival could not have been more timeous!
Nadia Kamies was born and raised in Cape Town. She holds a BSc Occupational Therapy and an MA Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town, and a PhD History from the University of Pretoria. Her writing focuses on the afterlives of slavery and apartheid.