WEBINAR | Reading the border wars through Jansen van Staden’s photobook ‘Microlight’

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Through photography Jansen van Staden’s Microlight photobook tries to question nationalism and intergenerational trauma while unravelling the mystery of his father.
Through photography Jansen van Staden’s Microlight photobook tries to question nationalism and intergenerational trauma while unravelling the mystery of his father.
  • Through photography Jansen van Staden tries to question nationalism and intergenerational trauma while unravelling the mystery of his father as a conscript for the South African Defence Force.
  • To launch the book he will have a conversation with other artists about the implications of the border war.
  • The panel discussion takes place on 11 November 2020 at 18:30.


Following the death of his father in a microlight accident in Kenya in 2011, photographer Jansen van Staden initiated a photographic series titled Microlight. 

The book was catalysed by van Staden finding a letter that his father had written to his therapist. In the letter his father details acts he committed while deployed to the South African border war as a 17-year-old conscript for the South African Defence Force. 

Through photography and essays van Staden then tries to question nationalism and intergenerational trauma while unravelling the mystery of his father.

As a part of the photobook’s launch, van Staden will have a conversation focused on the fallout of the Border War and the implications it has had. Joining van Staden will be photographer Neptune Alexandre and multidisciplinary artist Helena Uambemebe. 

Moderated by John Fleetwood the artists will use their respective practices to look at the implications of the border war through discussions around belonging, family, migration as well as personal and written history. 

About the panelists: 

Jansen van Staden is a South African photographer and author of Microlight. He uses street photography as a conceptual entry point to reflect on personal and social constructs of belonging and disconnect.

Helena Uambembe is a multidisciplinary artist who obtained a B-tech from the Tshwane University of Technology in 2018. She uses performance, photography and printmaking to recreate and reposition the history of the 32 Battalion – the infantry Battalion of the South African Army Founded in 1975, comprising mainly of Angolan soldiers. Uambembe draws on her own history rooted in the small North Western Town of Pomfret, where she was born to Angolan parents, and where her father was recruited into the 32 Battalion. The 32 Battalion becomes a master narrative she uses to investigate and explore the past.

Neptune Alexandre was born and works in Luanda, Angola. His photography focuses on identity, belonging and the influence of external dominant cultures on youth in Africa. His practice is informed by having found himself without a sense of belonging to his national or cultural identity nor to his upbringing in Lisbon, as well as by the shared identity he eventually found through youth hip-hop and church groups. 

John Fleetwood is a photography curator, educator and director of Photo:; a multi-operation platform for the development and promotion of socially engaged photography work, projects, photographers and critical visual culture.

The conversation takes place on 11 November 2020 at 18:30. For more information or to register for the webinar visit www.phototool.co.za



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