George Hallett

George Hallett was born in 1942 in District Six (D6), a multiracial residential suburb of Cape Town. Nestling on the slopes of Table Mountain, D6 would, in 1966, become symbolic of the inhumanity of apartheid, when 60,000 non-white inhabitants were forcibly removed, having been declared a “white area” by the nationalist regime. 

On completion of his schooling, Hallett was employed as a street photographer for a D6 studio. Here he gained valuable experience facing the challenges imposed by willing and unwilling subjects, producing acceptable results for clients and the demands of tight deadlines. During this period he documented the colourful vibrant District Six community before the Government’s bulldozers moved in.

In the late 60’s, an exhibition of George’s work, showing images of musicians, fishermen, and the squalid living conditions of the relocated ex-inhabitants of D6, received exceptional reviews. Finding it increasingly intolerable to live as a ‘non-white’ citizen, Mr Hallett, armed with a portfolio of these works, left S.A. and sailed to England. Having approached various newspapers he joined the staff at the Times Educational Supplement, a weekly London magazine. Documenting the Afro-Caribbean community in Birmingham as his first assignment, Hallett then travelled extensively around Britain photographing immigrant communities and their inclusion into local neighbourhoods, plus the contrasts of class and culture. In addition he designed book covers for the Heinemann African Writers Series as well as record covers for exiled S.A. musicians.

In 1974, he moved to Boule d’Amont in south-western France, renting a small farm, Mas Domingo. Using a Hasselblad, he photographed the inhabitants of the village, in addition to being appointed an official bullfight photographer.

George Hallett, never relinquishing his roots, built up a valuable archive of exiled South Africans. In Paris 1971, he photographed and became close friends with fellow countryman, well known artist Gerard Sekoto (1913-1993), exhibiting together with him and Louis Maurice, a South African sculptor based in London.

In the decades that followed, George circumvented the globe, invited as ‘Artist-in-Residence’ to several American universities, attending seminars in Africa, accepting numerous teaching posts in Zimbabwe, exhibiting across Europe, until returning to his homeland in 1990 to document the increasing violence and power struggle, prior to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

In 1994, recruited by the ANC, he photographed the preparations for South Africa’s first democratic elections and three years later took on the post as official photographer for the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He presently resides and works in S.A.

Photo: Ken Opprann

Photo: Ken Opprann

Exhibition C
Mandela and the 1st First Democratic Elections in
South Africa
House of South Africa
Kongens Plass 6

Impressions of the 1st Democratic Elections in
South Africa
Thursday May 8th
Caroline Cinema