Goldblatts photographs capture the understated unease of living an ordinary life in a society that was anything but normal
The photograph makes me squirm. Four young women, cling-wrapped in awkward swimsuits and perched on high heels, stand on display. One smirks, the other three look unsure. They clutch their competition numbers and present their naked white legs for consideration by the unseen judges.
Behind the stage, a crowd of mostly women and children cluster around the elevated stage, their faces resigned or perplexed. Dotted among the crowd, a few white men stare blankly, appraising the womens bodies, while the only black man frowns. Most people seem bemused by the uncomfortable spectacle taking place in their local supermarket. Outside the frame, shoppers push their trolleys through the aisles, taking toilet paper and bread rolls and washing powder off the shelves.
It makes me shudder because David Goldblatt took the photograph Saturday Morning at the Hypermarket: Miss Lovely Legs Competition at the supermarket where my mother shopped when I was a child growing up in South Africa. And if my seven-year-old self wasnt there on that day in 1980, I probably was later that week.
In itself, the image is ordinary. Like many of Goldblatts photographs, it isnt dramatic, the subjects unknown. But it shows the casualness of a society separated by apartheid. It captures the uneasiness that pulsed through my childhood growing up in South Africa. It recalls things I saw but did not see. And it drags up the old questions that lurk beneath my memories how could such ordinariness take place while countless horrors were happening off camera?
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