sat 20/07/2024

Truth and Lies: Jillian Edelstein on Show | reviews, news & interviews

Truth and Lies: Jillian Edelstein on Show

Truth and Lies: Jillian Edelstein on Show

Pictures from the photographer's most celebrated collection

Comforter Pumla Ndulula photographed at Jiss Hall, Johannesburg 1999

Regulars of theartsdesk will be familiar with the work of Jillian Edelstein. Her portraits of cultural figures have adorned several of our series, theartsdesk Q&A. There is now a chance to see pictures from her most celebrated collection at a new gallery and bookshop in south London.

truthEdelstein was the photographer charged with recording in her native South Africa the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. Held all over the country across a four-year time span, the Commission afforded victims the chance to confront their perpetrators and through their confessions seek, if not justice, then at least catharsis. Edelstein explains in her own interview with theartsdesk precisely how she went about the four-year task. Images from the resulting book Truth and Lies can be seen in our gallery, which also includes other portraits from her back catalogue.

But there is now the opportunity to see some Truth and Lies portraits in the flesh at Woolfson and Tay, an independent gallery, bookshop and cafe in Bermondsey.

According to Michael Ignatieff, the pictures "take us back to the way it really was: the municipal halls, the men and women listening to the testimony on earphones in Xhosa, Afrikaans or English. All this detail is essential to any understanding of what abstractions like truth, justice and reconciliation actually mean.

"Jillian Edelstein has preserved the reality of the process so that we will remember that truth and reconciliation were the work of individuals, who refused to live with silence, with lies, with equivocations and excuses."

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