2004 — student award of excellence
Andres Gonzalez is a photographer and educator who divides his time between Istanbul, Turkey and Portland, Maine where he teaches at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. His work has been published in Time, Newsweek, Wallpaper, and Monocle among others. He was nominated for a Baum Award in 2009, was selected as one of PDN’s 30, and is a Fulbright Fellow. His forthcoming book Somewhere, will be published in the fall of 2012.
Orphaned and proud, the Rehoboth Basters of Namibia are the bi-racial survivors descending from the sexual union between European settlers and their Khoisan slaves living in and around the Cape Province at the turn of the 19th Century. I propose to photographically celebrate the Baster community of Rehoboth Namibia.
Deep in the Kalahari Desert of Namibia sits an isolated town called Rehoboth, inhabited by a wonderful and curious community of people that go by the name of the Basters. Almond skinned and hard to define from first impressions, the Basters hint at other bi-racial cultures around the world created by the African Diaspora, or the Spanish Inquisition. During the budding year of South African colonization, the sexual union between European settlers and their Khoisan slaves created the Baster race, an unwanted and stigmatized group. Underrepresented in the apartheid struggle, they have managed to survive despite threats to their culture by years of discrimination, and are a fascinating example of how South African Apartheid has affected, and even, created the different ethnic groups throughout the region that today struggle for self-affirmation years after the apartheid system has been abolished.
In a time defined by borders, and skin tone, the Basters are not only a beautiful, and symbolic defiance to the African struggle between black and white, they are a fiercely proud people living out a unique legacy of the apartheid era. My purpose in doing this documentary is to promote cultural understanding by celebrating a different face of Africa, a face underrepresented by foreign media, and by history at large. But more importantly, my personal goal for this project is to understand and photograph the Baster culture as an organic, and therefore contradictory whole. As Robert Adams wrote, “to affirm life without lying about it.”
I anticipate this project will raise sensitive questions about the inevitable racial conflicts inherent in all aspects of the Namibian social fabric. I will turn my camera on such questions as: What is the idea of beauty in Rehoboth? Where does labor come from? What does wealth look like? What are the differences between public and private education? How has ideology evolved over the generations, and how are those changes manifested? Do they affect family relationships, marriage, and the outward migration of the youth?
I have been in contact with Vera Tune, a member of the Rehoboth Town Council and curator of the Reohoboth Museum, who has offered to introduce me to various members of the Rehoboth community, and has expressed an enthusiasm for the documentation of their fading heritage. I have also been in contact with Esther Moombolah, the chief curator at the National Museum of Namibia who has offered the museum as an editing workspace, a resource center and a potential gallery to hang a final show. With the assistance of these two contacts, I hope to tell a wonderful tale, one that is as immediate, as it is permanent, in our ever evolving world.