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The Land Project: Observations of the beautiful and com...

DM168

PHOTO ESSAY

Observations of the beautiful and complex relationship between people and the land

HW and Olwethu after a long day herding cattle on horseback, 2021. This bird’s-eye view image is of HW, the farmer’s youngest son, and Olwethu, the son of the farm foreman. Hard work is rewarded with relationships that shape who you become. Gazing down on these two young farmers fills me with nostalgia and reminds me of my youth. (Photo: Coenraad H Torlage)

I believe that images have the power to influence, and The Land Project is my attempt to contribute to creating and preserving connections and relationships that exist through the land.

I am interested in people’s connection to the land in South Africa, and their unwavering commitment to it.

I grew up on a farm in South Africa in a place called Dundee. I was raised there, among the animals and the people who also lived there.

At the beginning of 2021, I set out to do a photographic project titled Young Farmers. The project is based on individuals who are helping to build a better future for South Africa.

This project won the 2021 Sony World Photography Awards Student Competition and later grew into a larger photographic investigation of the land and our connections through it and with it.

For the Young Farmers project, the photographer went in search of the most philanthropic leaders in his local community of rural Dundee in KwaZulu-Natal. Through their work, they make an enormous difference without asking for anything in return. (Photo: Coenraad H Torlage, South Africa, Shortlist, Student Competition, Building a better future, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards)
For the Young Farmers project, the photographer went in search of the most philanthropic leaders in his local community of rural Dundee in KwaZulu-Natal. (Photo: Coenraad H Torlage, South Africa, Shortlist, Student Competition, Building a better future, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

In a sense, my images are observations of people connected to the land, the conditions in which they live and the land itself.

It is important to state that my images are from the viewpoint of a young gaze that wants this country to improve, grow and connect.

My relationship with the subjects in The Land Project is an integral part of the series.

I photograph from an insider perspective with a deep connection to every photograph.

I see myself, a young South African who grew up on a farm, now sharing my perspective by documenting others who rely on and live off the land.

It is also important to note that The Land Project does not cover the full complexity of the land and our relationship with and through it. DM168

Migrant workers’ cookware, 2021. Every year, a team of professional sheep shearers from the Eastern Cape travels to KwaZulu-Natal to shear sheep. This photo shows their local base’s cooking station. (Photo: Coenraad H Torlage)
Nguni cow, 2021. The Nguni breed is a southern African icon. In southern Africa, the Nguni cow is a symbol of peace and prosperity, and got its name from the Nguni people. (Photo: Coenraad H Torlage)
Skiet with family and members of his community, 2021. Nhalanhla Vincent, or Skiet as we know him, works on my family’s farm. This image was taken on the plot of land where he and his family, along with some other community members, live and farm for themselves. (Photo: Coenraad H Torlage)
Karoo dinner, 2021. Oom Dirk, a Karoo farmer, often stays on the farm by himself. His wife stayed in the house they bought for their retirement while I was there, but left enough food for both him and me. (Photo: Coenraad H Torlage)
Battlefield guns, 2021. These guns were used in and around Dundee, where I grew up. They are part of the weapons used in the 68 battles that took place in this area or in the re-enactments that still happen each year. (Photo: Coenraad H Torlage)
Cattle, Elandslaagte, 2021. This image reminds me of Koi fish swimming in a Japanese pond. It is a bird’s-eye view image of a mix of Brahman cattle after a rainy day. (Photo: Coenraad H Torlage)
Mama Maria, 2020. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, a few people took it upon themselves to look after their community. I photographed Mama Maria for a series called My Local Leaders. I was impressed by her efforts to care for her community’s children, providing
more than 100 meals a week. (Photo: Coenraad H Torlage)
Two brothers, HW and Christiaan, 2021. Young farmers must mature quickly, learn to be responsible and relinquish many of their childlike inclinations, yet they still have the best childhoods. They are children of the land. They remind me of the freedom we have while we are young. (Photo: Coenraad H Torlage)
Bridge of Reconciliation, 2021. In February 2013, many generations after the battle at Blood River/Ncome River, Reconciliation Bridge was built. The bridge was built to symbolise reconciliation in a new South Africa and the removal of social and racial barriers. It is a symbol of hope for the South Africa that we would like to live in. (Photo: Coenraad H Torlage)

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.

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