Ad van Denderen; Lebohang Tlali
“Your book about Welkom, the gold-mining town of my childhood, transformed the way I see the world,” South African photographer Lebohang Tlali wrote to Ad van Denderen.
Together with writer Margalith Kleijwegt, Van Denderen had recorded daily life during the apartheid era in the book Welkom in Quid-Afrika (1991, Focus Publishing). Tlali, who grew up in the nearby township of Thabong, discovered the book at the art academy in Cape Town and found his own history documented on its pages. Recognizing the emancipatory power of photography, he decided to make this medium his own.
In 2017, Tlali joins Van Denderen and Kleijwegt as they travel to Welkom and Thabong to record how life there has changed. They bring along Van Denderen’s old photos, which are for the first time shown in the place where they are taken, as part of a series of public exhibitions. They also give photography workshops in three secondary schools with quite different backgrounds and student populations. Even after the workshops, the pupils continue sending photos and sharing material from family photo albums with authors.
In a visual narrative of multiple voices. Welkom Today brings these images together with old and new photos by Ad van Denderen and Lebohang Tlali. Looking back through his archive, Van Denderen sees that he makes very different choices today and is more interested in raising questions than in making statements.
Margalith Kleijwegt recorded the stories of eight young inhabitants, including four pupils, who together represent the post-apartheid era in Welkom and Thabong. Although the past remains omnipresent, these young people from the born-free generation mainly want to look ahead.