Ernest Cole

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© Ernest Cole / Magnum Photos

Foam proudly presents the first overview of the work of South African photographer Ernest Cole. The exhibition includes parts of his archive, which had long been considered lost. The overview was assembled in collaboration with the Ernest Cole Family Trust, which in 2017 secured control of Cole’s archive. Cole is celebrated for his tireless documentation of Black lives in South Africa under apartheid: a regime of institutionalised racial segregation that was in effect from 1948 to the early 1990s. As one of the first Black freelance photographers, Cole offered with his work an unprecedented view from the inside. Born in a township, Cole experienced the strains of apartheid first-hand. By having himself reclassified from ‘black’ to ‘coloured’, he managed to access places where most South Africans were banned. He risked his life exposing the grim reality of racial segregation, by documenting miners inside the mines, police controls and the demolition of townships, among others. Cole lived a nomadic life, exiled from his native South Africa for his photographic publication House of Bondage (1967). The chapters from this book form the narrative for this exhibition. The book openly denounced the apartheid regime and was promptly banned in South Africa. In risk of arrest, Cole had gone into exile in 1966. He would never return to South Africa again.

January 26, 2023
June 14, 2023
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