COMRADES, WARRIORS AND VOLKSTAAT KOMMANDOS
Featured Artists: TJ Lemon
Company: TJ Lemon
COMRADES, WARRIORS AND VOLKSTAAT KOMMANDOS is a photographic exhibition that provides insight into the often-bizarre military styles of political groups in the years before the 1994 elections.
The ‘Comrades‘ were ANC youth in uniform. They wore khaki and berets in the style of the revolutionary Che Guevarra. Most were deployed for crowd control, linking arms and pressing back the massive crowds. Some carried faniciful wood and scrap ‘guns’, others wore medals, some chose sunglasses… For these comrades, it was a free-for-all experiment in political expression. They captured the imagination of the crowd with their big fanciful ‘guns’, seeming to say, “We are in charge now”.
The ‘Warriors‘ were Zulu Inkatha supporters. Be it a daylight march down a city street or a late-night sortie into the neighbourhood, the warriors carried their traditional weapons – spears, knob-kerries and shields. These were the deadly sons of Shaka. Migrant workers living in massive men’s hostels around Johannesburg. The de facto barracks of an Inkatha war machine.
The ‘Volkstaat Kommandos‘ were the AWB supporters, a group of ultra-rightwing Afrikaners. Despite parading in Nazi-style uniforms, the group claimed to be virtuous Christians in the mould of their Voortrekker ancestors. Their marches were whole family affairs… The ‘elite’ Ystergarde, wearing black uniforms and balaclavas, marched under Nazi-style banners. They were popular with the foreign media, but when challenged by a homeland defence force, the ‘dangerous right wing’ vaporised.
TJ Lemon is an award winning photojournalist based in Johannesburg. He has an interest in unique South African cultures. He has won a World Press award for Oswenka – The Jeppe Hostel Swankers and has just exhibited work from the book Dust of the Zulu – Ngoma Aesthetics After Apartheid at Duke University.