Margaret Courtney-Clarke is one of the 25 projects/photographers shortlisted for the 2020 CAP Prize for Contemporary African Photography.
When Tears Don’t Matter unfolds as I begin a journey of healing that would take me across ten thousand kilometres of sand and bushveld, from conservancies to resettled farms, from ‘Cultural Villages’ to peri-urban squatments and so-called ‘locations’ to record the entangled relationship between self and ‘other’ in contemporary eastern Namibia.
My narrative begins under the shade of a Camelthorn tree. Men, women, children appeared from nowhere carrying chairs and plastic water bottles wrapped in wet rags … daughters leading blind mothers, wives leading blind husbands, children guiding grandparents. I came to shut out personal trauma. And I did – so warmly was I embraced by the peoples of this land on my journey -- the ǃXoon, the Nharo, the Ju/’Hoansi, !Xung, Haiǁom and the N/hoa, six out of seven Bushman ‘clans’ across Namibia who currently inhabit some of the most seared tracts of land.
What is crucial in this work is to give place to a voice in search of a listener. These photographs are not a product of a singular, dramatic news event, but rather the recording of the daily lives of those who call themselves Bushmen. A ‘shadow people’, largely invisible to the outside world, living in some of the remotest areas in the Kalahari Desert, they are currently locked into a desperate time in the history of Namibia. Their situation is born of the injustices of the past, exacerbated by the deprivations of a six-year drought, and maintained by current governmental indifference.
My aim is to connect with viewers by bringing awareness to human-ness, to stimulate debate, bring injustices to light, and to educate (where governments and press have failed). This is a social process, an ongoing relational conversation, rather than a conclusion. The journey is a demand on myself, and my viewers, to look both beyond and within oneself. It is also, hopefully, to find an antidote to despondency.