South Africa has witnessed a significantly different evolution from other nations within the continent due to two major factors. The first being, immigration from Europe and the second, the strategic importance of the Cape Sea Route. Mainly as a result of immigration, South Africa is a very racially diverse nation. It boasts of the largest population of Colored people (mixed racial background), whites, and Indian communities in Africa. Negro South Africans account for slightly less than 80% of this population.

Throughout history South Africa has been in the spotlight mainly due to widespread images of racial and political tensions that were once rampant in the country. Issues of racial strife between the white minority and the black majority has played a large part in the country’s history and politics, culminating in apartheid. The oppression that was knowingly created by the white minorities asphyxiated the people of South Africa. Photographers illustrated the long and often violent struggle by the Black majority as well as many Colored and Indian South Africans to an appalled international audience.

Based on this, two ideologies were adhered to. These were: ubuntu (the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity); and Gandhi’s notion of “passive resistance” (Satyagraha). As seen in many images, South Africa is often referred to as “The Rainbow Nation”. This phrase coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and later endorsed by Nelson Mandela was a metaphor to describe the country’s newly-developing multicultural diversity in the midst of apartheid ideology.

During the Apartheid era the majority of commercial and all public-service radio stations and television channels were operated by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). These media vehicles were subject to strict control and censorship by the government, with a few independent regional stations allowed. After the war against apartheid was won, the broadcasting industry was allowed its freedoms. Many of the commercial regional SABC radio stations and former Bantustan stations were then privatized and sold to companies that were owned by black people. Three SABC television channels are in place at present.

The images that have been captured for decades by photographers are a brave attempt at illustrating a nations frustration. However, it is essential that viewers understand that the media forms whether they be visual or audio integrate their own forms of biasness into the issue. South Africa is a nation that has struggled with oppression, poverty, crime, political instability and corruption for many years. The reality is that photographs and documentaries only highlight certain issues.