If I were to leave this cottage tomorrow, I would not have a single photograph of it and none of myself living here. That gives me pause for thought. I don’t own a camera and don’t like having photographs taken of myself or my home because of my father’s voyeuristic behaviour when we were small children, the indecent pictures and ways in which we were manipulated and coerced to pose for him. Enough of that.
“… The fact that I almost haven’t had any contact with my family during the last years makes that even these pictures feel as if they have a distance to me. A lot of people on the pictures remain strangers to me. To fill the void in my personal history I started to take pictures of my surroundings. Not only places that are seen in the pictures I had found but also places that resonate my feelings about our universal history, family life and my personal history.”
More protests and rioting here in the mountains, the knot of tension twisting in my gut, the despair in me at the plight of so many exploited and desperate people. Wide-spread intimidation and destruction of property. A brutal start to the year. Many of the protesters are women farm workers with hungry children at home. Working 14-hour days for as little as five dollars a day.
A woman who works on a farm is most likely to have been born on that farm. She is most likely black, with little or no access to formal education. The agricultural labour force in South Africa is characterised by a distinct gender division of labour: farming is still perceived as predominantly ‘men’s work’, with women’s labour considered supplementary. As such, the permanent workforce within agriculture is predominantly male, with women forming the largest percentage of casual and seasonal labour.
In a research study conducted on farm worker wages in the Western Cape, we found that women seasonal workers receive a minimum wage of between R48 ($5 US) and R60 ($7) per day. A seasonal worker’s maximum monthly wage is R1 200 ($130), without any incentives, bonus or benefits guaranteed. Our study also found that women farm workers spend their wages mostly on their family’s needs, such as food and healthcare. One seasonal worker who participated in this research said that the hardest time for her is when the season ends. The worry she experiences at this time was evident in her voice as she explained her situation. As a single mother with two school-going children, she feels distressed when she is not able to put food on the table or pay her children’s school fees.