PROMISES AND LIES: THE ANC, EXILE & THE PROJECT OF FREEDOM New Exhibition Raises Provocative Questions

Johannesburg, 24 April 2017 – The Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD), University of Johannesburg (UJ) proudly presents a provocative multimedia exhibition programme to be held at FADA Gallery, UJ and Constitution Hill. Combining rare historical photographs of political exile with quotes from the Freedom Charter and a new documentary film, Promises and Lies: The ANC, Exile and the Project of Freedom offers viewers the opportunity to revisit the past in light of a politically charged present.

Umkhonto we Sizwe members in the library at the ANC headquarters in Lusaka, 1989

Unveiling a series of photographs shelved for over twenty-five years, the exhibition presents a unique opportunity for the public to encounter images of ANC members living in exile in Zambia and Tanzania. Taken in 1989 and 1991 by award-winning British photographer Laurie Sparham, and re-presented in the contemporary moment by curator and filmmaker Dr Siona O’Connell, these unique images chronicle the everyday experiences, behind-the-scenes moments and diplomatic encounters of former exiles such as Thabo Mbeki, Chris Hani, Joe Slovo and Jacob Zuma. Accompanying the exhibition is a thought provoking documentary directed by O’Connell, titled Promises & Lies – Fault Lines in the ANC, which considers the trajectory of the ANC through the lens of this historic photographic archive.

Dr Siona O’Connell: “Promises and Lies: the ANC, Exile & the Project of Freedom offers viewers a chance to consider the sacrifices of political exile and the promise of freedom that was its aspiration, in relation to a current landscape of crisis and failure in which contemporary South Africans are personally and collectively complicit.

“It asks difficult questions of the ANC in an attempt to think about the shift from a party of liberation to a governing party. The film, which includes interviews with Trevor Manuel and Robert McBride, compels us to think about links and traces, aspirations and accountability, and, in the interests of an as-of-yet unrealised freedom, poses difficult questions we must ask of history and its resonances in the present.”

The film premiere at Constitution Hill’s Old Fort

Chris Hani in Tanzania, 1990 Photographer – Laurie Sparham

Prison Cells on 4 May 2017, opens with an address by former Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, and will be attended by government officials, dignitaries and key political players featured in the documentary.

Featured in the documentary, Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) Executive Director Robert McBride, comments on current affairs in South Africa: “Corrupt government officials don’t function on their own, so as a society we have to do some introspection and see where we need to regain our value-based identity which makes us South Africans – a miracle nation, a nation that can do, that can get things done.”

The FADA Gallery, UJ, launches the historic exhibition Promises and Lies: The ANC, Exile and the Project of Freedom on 11 May 2017. The unveiling of this important visual archive encourages audiences to imaginatively revisit histories of exile and of liberation struggle, and to critically rethink the promises of freedom they represent.

This fascinating new exhibition offers a very necessary and timeous platform for creative encounters and critical dialogue around collective memory, accountability and the ongoing demand for active citizenry. The documentary film will screen continually at FADA Gallery during exhibition opening hours and is free of charge.

Henry Makothi, Walter Sisulu and Thabo Mbeki in Tanzania, 1990 Photographer – Laurie Sparham

From left Elias Motsoaledi, Raymond Mhlaba, Ahmed Kathrada, Wilton Mkwayi, Andrew Mlangeni, Joe Slovo in Tanzania, 1990 Photographer – Laurie Sparham

• Promises and Lies: The ANC, Exile and the Project of Freedom exhibition open to all:

WHEN: Thursday 11 May to Saturday 3 June 2017
Tuesdays to Fridays: 09h00 to 16h00
Saturdays: 09h00 to 13h00


WHERE: FADA Gallery at the entrance to the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture building at the University of Johannesburg, 17 Bunting Road, Johannesburg

FADA Gallery is situated on the Bunting Road Campus (in between Egoli Gas and the SABC).


Entrance is FREE of charge.



About VIAD / University of Johannesburg

The Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD) is a nationally and internationally respected research facility, dedicated to deepening research and critical commentary around the overarching thematic of identity construction in visual representation. All research generated, whether in written form, or otherwise, addresses identity construction and its readings, across both contemporary and historical contexts. These constructions are identified, read and analysed in relation to visual practice, visual representation and visual culture. While emphasis is placed on the construction of visual identities in a contemporary South African context, this context is considered in relation to its positioning as part of the African continent and the global south.



About Dr Siona O’Connell 

Dr Siona O’Connell is an academic, curator and filmmaker currently based at the University of Pretoria. O’Connell is a research affiliate for the Centre for Curating the Archive, University of Cape Town. She is also a Trilateral Reconnections Project Fellow and a BIARI (Brown Internal Advanced Research Institute) alumnus. Her work around archives and curation seeks to shift frames from aesthetics to restorative justice, opening up questions round representation, freedom, trauma and memory in the aftermath of oppression. She is committed to research that engages new constituencies. Her projects include working with clothing and textile workers in South Africa, forced removals, pageants of the Western Cape and the apartheid imagery of Adile Bradlow, Benny Gool and Zubeida Vallie. She has produced and directed five documentaries using the exhibition and documentary film as the entry point into conversations on ways of life after apartheid.