The Fatherhood Project, 1999 – South Africa

I googled fatherhood and this interesting article promoting an exhibit called “The Fatherhood Project” popped up.

The Light Shines on Fatherhood
by Kresta Tyler Johnson

Men in South Africa face the challenge of extricating themselves from their perception as perpetrators of crime and aggression particularly against women and children. They need to prove themselves to be substantive members of society and the family structure.

Research shows the importance of men as role models for children and the mutual benefits relationships between men and children create. To alter the generally accepted negative impressions will take great effort both from society as a whole and men themselves. One such endeavour takes the form of ‘The Fatherhood Project’.

This project incorporates a wide array of components, including an exhibition of photographs that reveals men as caretakers and father figures. The nurturing images are universally recognisable and work to dispel the negative associations all too prevalent today.

The project was initiated by Child, Youth and Family Development (CYFD) at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Coinciding with the year-long travelling exhibition will be conferences, publications, research and policy initiatives as well as a book on men and fatherhood in South Africa. The collaborative effort of partners on both local and national levels works to encourage the advocacy of community, family and the role of men in the future of South Africa.

The exhibition of photographs is currently on view at MuseumAfrica in Johannesburg. Divided into six categories, the 150 photographs are displayed along with excerpts from children’s essays. Tender images convey the emotions described by the children’s words. The photographs were taken by professional photographers, art and photography students from the Durban Institute of Technology, and schoolchildren from Soweto, Johannesburg and rural areas outside Durban.

The children’s work is particularly poignant and beautiful and reinforces the importance of caring men in their lives. The photographs reflect the social concept of man as a father figure, playing more than a purely biological role. The focus on positive expectations of men is an effort to create an opportunity for change both in perceptions commonly held and inside men themselves.

‘The Fatherhood Project’ acknowledges the darker side of fatherhood in South Africa, where men are brutal, abusive, neglectful and generally absent, yet emphasises that youth still yearn for the good in older men and need them to play a role in their lives. Maybe this project, beginning with these images will start to break down the stereotypes and become the foundation of a road on which men can move forward as contributors to the family and the lives of those around them.

The exhibition runs from May 18 to June 24.

Bensusan Museum and Library of Photography, MuseumAfrica, 121 Bree Street, Newtown
Tel: (011) 833 5624
Fax: (011) 833 5636
Hours: Mon – Fri 8am – 4.30pm; Sat 9am – 1pm