Jeff Warner PHOTOGRAPHIC, Golden, Colorado, USA

Sunday, October 2, 2011

10/2/11: South Africa in the rear view

Wow, am I conflicted about my time in South Africa. 

In both Ghana and Morocco, I’ve been able to discover some humor, to spin a tale here or there for the fun of just spinning it. Not so, in South Africa. Although people were absolutely wonderful and we had no problems whatsoever, I found little humorous of our time and experiences in Cape Town, however beautiful and ‘like home’ it may be. The poverty was sobering in a very different way compared to that in Ghana. I’m not sure why it should be. There is a widespread air of great hope for the future of South Africa amongst blacks, coloureds, and whites alike. The racism of apartheid has--for the most part--been left behind by all, with little apparent ill-will toward any given group of people. The country has resources, has an economy that is growing compared to most other African nations, and attracts people in droves; immigrants, tourists, businesses. But, some ephemeral tapestry of gloom hangs over this country, intricately woven into the fabric of life for those born both pre- and post-apartheid.

Even though we left South Africa four days ago, until now, I’ve yet to address the bleak realities that HIV has wrought upon the peoples of the South African nation, the government of which has as much as ignored the problem up until a scant 10 years ago, when their half-hearted turnaround still failed to address the widespread nature of the issue. When they finally did start supplying anti-retroviral drugs to merely 1/3 of those affected, the damage had been done, with alarming HIV rates continuing to rise as apartheid faded into the history books. By then, 6 million people were suffering the effects of the virus, and widespread social stigma relegated many of them to being social outcasts in a world of the politically outcast.

Now please allow a few moments to consider this: Take every child in the U.S. under five years of age. Every single one. Now imagine every last one of them an orphan. That is the reality facing South Africa, with consequences far, far more grim being waged upon both the bodies and psyches of these kids than you can possibly imagine, given our western perspective. Heidi just came in and conveyed this revolting statistic to me after sitting in on a seminar about the realities of women and HIV in South Africa. I’ve seen some stuff in my day, but some things I just don’t want to hear, and I actually had to stop Heidi mid-sentence.

“Jeez, I came here to see pretty pictures, what a freakin’ downer!”

Well, sorry, the internet is full of them. Just google any one of the subjects I’ve photographed in the last month to see images both better and more plentiful than I’ve been able to capture. As you can see by the masthead description at the top of this blog, I’d originally envisioned it to be a showcase for my photography of international locations, places I’ve never been and may never again be, places you may or may not experience in your lifetime. Three ports into this voyage, I think I have decided to take a different approach, or rather, my approach has necessarily morphed into something more apt, at least to me, than pretty pictures.

As someone lucky enough to be married to someone fortunate enough to have traveled the world at a relatively young age, I now can’t possibly overestimate the value of this voyage to both myself, and to my sons. Many people I know travel extensively for work and are able to experience other cultures often. I was never given the gift of travel as a kid, nor did I take advantage of it as young adult with disposable income, though I always wanted to see other parts of the world.

If, however, you are one of those people, like me, who have not yet been able to extensively travel the world thus far in your life, I sincerely hope you’ll bear with me. I’ll continue to show some pretty pictures, portraits of people and life in other places, of things both mundane and surreal that we cannot experience in the U.S. But, I’m going to try and give you bits and pieces of these other places, as I experience them, in a way that hopefully gives you unique insight, considering that we may come from similar experiential backgrounds. Lofty goal, I’m sure, but for those of you who have travelled the world, I similarly hope that you will stick around and see how these experiences affect me; perhaps reflect upon how your past experiences have affected you, how you have or have not been guided by those experiences to either make or not make a change in your life, however superficial or substantive said changes may or may not be.

I cannot say where this voyage will lead me, but I’m of the eternal hope that the experiences that Reade and Tate are now having will ultimately have some kind of profound affect upon the course of their lives, however many years or decades it may take for them to realize it.

Thanks for sticking with it, and I’ll try to show some pretty pictures soon.  :)

Saturday is funeral day here in Cape Town, and apparently it's the main activity every Saturday for those living in townships.

Mick Jagger is alive and well here in Cape Town.


  1. Big brother I didn't know you were such an amazing writer. While sometimes melancholy this blog is incredibly thought-provoking and in a very good way. Keep 'em coming.

  2. Thanks Amber, I really appreciate hearing that!

  3. It seems like this trip is turning out to be the profound experience that Heidi had anticipated. We are lucky to have you sharing your thoughts and feelings as well as your amazing photos. Love, Mom


You must have something to say after reading all that, eh? Please leave a comment! :)