Old Photographs

Old Photographs

An ODD series

(August 2017)


Like a ship in the sand

The days have moved slowly

But one never leaves land.

Dreams gather in black books:

Coiled spaces, mixed up parables

Out of which looks

The soul as it reads time.

I travel the whole world

With an uncomplicated rhyme.

I feast in dreams, and fast in life;

It seems that dreams tranfigure strife.

So I send messages to my future

Within a murky paradigm.

Out at sea there are many rocks

I encounter before they are due;

Sleep resolves them in paradox.

Only in the present are things true.

Not even the future will last.

Nostalgia’s a flower sent to the past.

-Ben Okri (from his Anthology WILD)


My grandmother is a storyteller. I have learnt all my stories from people just like her. When I visit her cosy home, the family home, in Eldorado Park (Johannesburg), we sometimes have tea and look at her collection of albums-never dusty, nor forgotten. As her shrivelled hands move between the albums, I am greeted by the photographs stuck to the yellow-sticky cardboard held together by a transparent sheet. It always takes a long time to get through them all and after hours of scrolling, we barely get through two albums. Every photograph is held together with a story and every story is narrated. Unlike the scrolling of Instagram photographs or the consistent capturing of beautiful things in life- the story becomes the thing itself- the FORM: the SIGN: the IMAGE.

“this is just you and Papa sitting on a bench.” I point out.

“my cousin just got a new camera. This HUGE thing and she was testing pictures. We didn’t even pay attention. I don’t even remember having my photo taken that day, but I remember sitting there.”

“I wish we had more photographs to touch and preserve.”

“You can capture everything now with your phone-such a privilege.”

“You’re right, but we don’t have stories to tell…”

“You’re wrong.” she continues….

An ODE to those Before us- The art of significant memory


Grandma’s hands

Photo submitted by Nadia Pillay

“This is my mum, Soraya with her granny. She raised my mom and so they had a close bond. Not many photos exist of my mum from her childhood so this one is especially significant. The name Grandma’s hands- because Granny’s hands are always secure.”

Photo submitted by Amy Loureth Worster

Photo taken by: Peter van den Houten

“My Mom, Cathy, waiting to catch a flight while honeymooning with my Dad in Europe.”

Photos submitted by Yahya Rautenbach

“As a privileged music student during the late 1980’s, I became increasingly aware of the socio-political dilemmas in our country. Musical activities in community centres of townships and clubs of the then Port Elizabeth city led to many adventures.

Eurocentric classical music studies, ethnomusicology, jazz… The searches for meaning, justice, constructive and original creativity within the South African context… At the time, musical group BOMVU’s sound was labelled as ‘Classical-Afro-Jazz-Fusion’ by the Press.

In retrospect, one can reflect on the complexities, diversities and challenges of the choices within notions of circumstance, technology, culture, truth, abuse, mistake, justice, blessing, mercy… activity, productivity, ownership and survival! Events within events within events… Stories within stories within stories…”

“This photograph was taken at the then Port Elizabeth Opera House by a PE Technicon photography student in the late 80s. Unfortunately, I can’t remember his name.

Percussionist – Nathan Siphio Solomon

Bassist – http://www.brydonbolton.com/Site/home.html

“This photograph was taken by the Warehouse Theatre Windhoek Namibia in the 90s, in their venue.

Bassist – Mntunzi Skade

Percussionist – Nathan Siphio Solomon”

Photos submitted by Nicola Pilkington


“Images of my parents in the early 80s, before they were ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’. Before they were no longer married. They would hike a lot: these were from the Outeniqua Trail, alongside the Garden Route. (The one with the person overlooking the rock pools is of my mom). Significant because I have never known them like this.”

Photo submitted by Sumeya Gasa

“My mother expecting Imran (my younger brother) in Durban, 1996.”

Photo submitted by Blaise Kirsten

This picture was taken on the 23rd August 1973 in Durban. My grandparents have five children together. They lived in Durban and thereafter relocated to Johannesburg. They parted ways after moving to Johannesburg but remained good friends.”

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