New Exhibit Captures the Spirit of the Children of South Africa

Posted: February 6, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

South African children

As South Africa struggles to free itself from centuries of racial discrimination, is it really a land crumbling under the pandemic of AIDS, plagued by crime, guns and drugs? This was the question facing a group of visitors on a Fulbright-Hays program who documented their journey in a photographic exhibit, “The Children of South Africa: The Way Forward.”

The exhibit opens Wednesday, Feb. 8, in the Mason Hall Alumni Atrium on the Fairfax Campus, and runs through March 22. A reception will be held in the atrium from 7 to 9 p.m. on opening day.

Harold Linton, chair of Mason’s Art and Visual Technology Department, organized the exhibition of 30 photographs chronicling the Fulbright group’s visit to the schools and shantytowns of Durban and its environs when he was chair of the Art Department at Bradley University in Illinois. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois wrote the exhibition catalog’s foreword, which underscores the importance of the exhibit’s humanitarian message.

With unabashed clarity and unapologetic honesty, the photographs illustrate the daily lives of children – half of whom had parents who were deceased or dying of AIDS – at school, at play and at home. The photographs show the world their optimism and struggle out of a vicious cycle.

The visit was eye-opening and life-changing, says Linton, who explains that seeing these lives up close “helps us become citizens of the world with as much passion for people as for art.” He adds, “We do have the resources and ability to change this.”

Sales of the show’s catalog ($15) and prints will fund donations to Plan USA, a children’s charity at work in 46 developing countries around the world.

This is a traveling exhibit, currently under consideration for future stops at the Washington Library in Chicago and the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.

Children of South Africa

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