Libmonster ID: U.S.-1486
Author(s) of the publication: K. E. SIMONSON
Educational Institution \ Organization: Vilnius Art Academy

Keywords: South Africa, litvaki, photography, Nelson Mandela, Eli Weinberg

The wave of emigration of Litvaks 1 to South Africa (now South Africa) began at the end of the 19th century, for several reasons. First, there were Jewish pogroms in Russia, and although there were no pogroms in Lithuania, local Jews were increasingly concerned. Second, at the end of the 19th century, huge gold deposits were found in South Africa. News of this also reached Lithuania. Then the wave of migration began. By the beginning of the First World War, out of 800,000 Jews living in the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, about 40,000 had left for South Africa.2

Having arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they were not yet engaged in entrepreneurship, because they did not have the necessary capital for this. The migrants did not know the local languages and found themselves relatively isolated from all other groups and subcultures. Even though they were racially white, Jews suffered from social exclusion and sometimes severe Boer anti-Semitism.

In the 1930s, mass emigration to South Africa practically stopped due to the quota Law passed in 1930. This law banned Jews from Eastern Europe from entering the country, as they allegedly did not assimilate into the white culture in this country. The law did not apply to emigration from Germany, in connection with which 6 thousand people left the country. German Jews managed to escape from Nazi persecution. But in 1937, another law - "On foreigners" - closed the door to Jews from Western Europe.

Fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe, Jews migrated to South Africa. They had no illusions about successful integration into the society of their host country. Therefore, they began to form a separate Jewish community of their own, creating a network of schools, youth movements, cultural organizations, press agencies, and charitable organizations.

By the beginning of this century, "approximately 80-90 thousand Jews lived in South Africa, and approximately 80% of them were Litvaks," said David Sachs, a member of the South African Jewish Council of Deputies, a historian and researcher whose ancestors came from Litva3.

In his autobiography, The Long Road to Freedom, Nelson Mandela (1918 - 2013), leader of the African National Congress (ANC), wrote: "I have noticed that when discussing racial and political issues, Jews are more open than most whites, perhaps because they themselves have historically been victims of prejudice."4. He is echoed by litvak Hrant Gochin: "These are people who have already experienced intense self-hatred. And when they came to South Africa, they saw hatred towards black Africans. " 5

Indeed, among whites, it was the Jewish diaspora that energetically supported Mandela. Jews who fought against apartheid were killed, tortured, maimed, and imprisoned in the same way as other white fighters against the regime. In every aspect of the struggle against apartheid - political, military, legal, cultural - Jews played a prominent role, representing an ethnic group that made up only about 2.5% of white South Africans and only 0.3% of the total population of South Africa*.


During the years and decades of the racist regime, documentary photography became the dominant genre in South Africa. It was constantly used in the ideological struggle between the apartheid State system and its opponents. Photography has played a crucial role in osuzhd-

From the report presented by Karina Simonson at the XIII International Conference of African Studies, held in Moscow on May 27-30, 2014.

* However, not all of them opposed the racist regime. Suffice it to say that the prosecutor in the famous Rivonia trial (1963-1964) of the leaders of the African National Congress, in which Mandela and his comrades were sentenced to life in prison, was Percy Yutar, whose parents were Litvaki (editor's note).

page 59

the Research Institute for the brutality, illegality and brutal violence of a system that has trampled on basic human rights.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche (b. 1977), a well-known Nigerian writer, expressed this idea in her speech "The danger of a Single story" in 2009 at the TIE6 conference: "A single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are wrong, but that they are insufficient. They turn one story into a single story"7. The writer warns that relying on just one story about a person or nation can lead to manipulation of the truth.

This idea of Chimamanda Adiche seemed to me very accurate when analyzing my position as an art critic regarding the object of my research. By studying a single photograph, without linking it to the political, social, and historical context, as well as to other photographs of the time, and accepting it as the only source and evidence, very simplistic and easily manipulative conclusions can be drawn.


The death of long-time leader and President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was an occasion for me to study in more detail the creation of his image in the works of South African photographers. Among them, the photos of Nelson Mandela taken by South African Litvak Jews are of particular interest to me in this study, but especially the photo of 1961, the author of which is Eli Weinberg.

The black-and-white photo shows a young man sitting on a wooden chair. There are three versions of this photo, with a slightly different composition and direction of the man's gaze. This is Nelson Mandela, who was 43 years old at the time.

How is this photo constructed, what is actually depicted on it?

In analyzing this image, I would like to draw attention to three components: the needs of the historical and political environment surrounding Mandela; Mandela as the subject of photography; and the photographic discourse of author Eli Weinberg.


The historical and political context is important because it concealed the prerequisites for creating just such a portrait of Nelson Mandela as a political figure.

To begin with, this photo shows Mandela at a very difficult time for him - he was already a member of the top leadership of the ANC, was actively involved in political activities, repeatedly came to the attention of the police, was arrested, and was forbidden to participate in meetings.

At that time, Mandela was forced to hide in an apartment

Eli Vainberg (1908-1981) was born in Libau (now Liepaja), Latvia. He survived the First World War and the October Revolution of 1917 as a child. His mother, sister and other relatives died in a Nazi concentration camp.

Weinberg became interested in photography in 1926, working part-time in a friend's photo studio. In 1929, he came to Cape Town. His move was part of a large wave of pre-World War II Jewish emigration from the Baltic States to South Africa.

In South Africa, he worked as a professional newspaper photographer and was also a popular upper-class photographer.

By 1948. Eli has already incurred the wrath of the racist regime, and has been banned from union work. Other bans followed in 1953, and when a state of emergency was declared in the country in 1960, he was detained for three months. In 1964, he was arrested and spent seven months in prison. After a lengthy trial, Eli Weinberg was found guilty of being a member of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party (SCCP) and sentenced to five years in prison. After his release in 1970. Weinberg was placed under house arrest and ordered to report to the police on a daily basis.

In 1976, Weinberg left South Africa for Tanzania. He re-entered the leadership of the UACP and was elected Chairman of the Regional Political Committee of the ANC in this country.

page 60

ANC and UACP member, political activist and Jewish journalist Wolfie Kodesh, in the Berea district of Johannesburg. Since it was no longer safe for Nelson to leave the house, Eli Weinberg took this photo there.

The classic European men's suit that lawyer Mandela wore every day was not suitable for the visual representation of the opposition leader. Any Western clothing would inevitably cause undesirable associations. On the other hand, Mandela was well aware of the rise of nationalist and even racist ideas and attitudes among the black population of the country, and that is why he decided to take a photo dressed in the traditional kaross* of the Tembu aristocrats**, a leopard skin robe of the Xhosa people*** and decorated with traditional beads.

Eli Weinberg took this picture of Mandela on the eve of his secret 1962 trip to Africa to bolster support for the ANC. On his return, he was arrested and appeared in court in Pretoria dressed in an "African" suit.

An interesting detail in this photo is related to the clothing of Nelson Mandela: it seems that he is dressed in the traditional clothes of the Xhosa people. But this is not the case. During the trial, he was wearing a leather caross. However, when Eli Weinberg photographed him in Wolfie Kodesh's small apartment, Mandela had no choice but to wrap himself in a bedspread.

It is very important to emphasize that this choice of clothing was the decision of the most photographed African. At that time, he had already formed as a leader and told fellow party members that he would become the first black president of South Africa. [8] Later, when Mandela went to court in the traditional robe, he knew that it would "emphasize the symbolic meaning that I am a black African going to a white man's court." 9

Mandela had every right to pose with all the appropriate regalia. When the boy was 10 years old and his father died, he was raised by the regent tembu. As a descendant of Ngubengcuka, one of the kings of Xhosa, from whom he adopted the traditional name Madiba, Nelson was proud to come from a royal family.10

His charisma was evident from his youth. Mandela was well-built and knew how to use his appearance. In his youth, Nelson spent a long time boxing and later also tried to train constantly. The muscles of his torso were especially sculpted and looked attractive, only slightly covered with a light cloth, which was used in Weinberg's photo.

The creative contribution of Litvak photographer Eli Weinberg, of course, was also very important. His wealth of historical, cultural and aesthetic knowledge influenced this compositional solution of the portrait of Nelson Mandela.

By the way, almost all influential members of the ANC were not registered in national clothes. Usually all of them are in costumes in photos of that time. The exception is Albert Lutuli, who won the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the nonviolent struggle against apartheid. In Oslo, at the presentation of this award, he appeared in the traditional national dress.

During the entire 27 years of Mandela's imprisonment, his portrait was officially banned for use in the country's media. And those few photos that got into the press were strictly selected and censored by the prison authorities.

When analyzing anti-apartheid images - whether they are posters, leaflets, solidarity postage stamps, or other images related to the resistance-the same portraits of Mandela are often found. The photo taken by Eli Weinberg is one example of such an illustration, which has been cropped, tinted, turned into a negative or redrawn many times.

* * *

Thus, this photo shows how Eli Weinberg, a man who endured oppression in Europe, in his practical and political activities identified with black Africans. But as a Litvak artist, he did not show himself in any way, he was just a European, without a "Lithuanian" identity.

* Kaross-a cape made of leopard skin and fur, which was worn by the leaders of some tribes in South Africa (author's note).

** The Thembu are one of several Xhosa-speaking peoples in South Africa.

*** Xhosa is a people in the Republic of South Africa. In modern South Africa, the Xhosa population is approx. 8 million people out of the country's 54 million population. Representatives of the Xhosa people held leading positions in the leadership of the ANC. N. Mandela-Xhosa by nationality (author's note).

Litvaks - 1 are Jews originally from the territories of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania: modern Lithuania, parts of Belarus, Ukraine and Latvia, and Suwalok - in the north-eastern part of Poland. The area where Lithuanian Jews lived is often called Lite (author's note).

Newman A., Evans J.N., Smith J.G.. Issroff W.S. 2 Jewish Migration to South Africa: The Records of the Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter, 1885 - 1914. Cape Town: Jewish Publications-South Africa, 2006, p. 385.

Stoddard E. 3 Lithuanian Jews make big impact in South Africa // Reuters. 12.06.1998

Mandela N. 4 Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Little Brown & Co, 1995, p. 91.

5 Pietu Afrikos litvakai -

6 TED (Technology Entertainment Design) is an annual conference held in California, USA. The conference organizers define their mission with the slogan "ideas worth spreading". Covers a wide range of topics: science, art, design, politics, culture, business, global issues, etc.

Adichie Ch.N. 7 The danger of a single story // TEDGlobal 2009 - talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_ singlestory

8 Nelson Mandela // The Economist. 14.12.2013 - apartheid-died-december-5th-aged

Hepple B. 9 Black man in the white man's court. 2012, p. 6 - uploads/files/heppleextract.pdf

10 Nelson Mandela...


Permanent link to this publication:

Similar publications: LUnited States LWorld Y G


Ann JacksonContacts and other materials (articles, photo, files etc)

Author's official page at Libmonster:

Find other author's materials at: Libmonster (all the World)GoogleYandex

Permanent link for scientific papers (for citations):

K. E. SIMONSON, SOUTH AFRICA: HOW NELSON MANDELA WAS PHOTOGRAPHED // New-York: Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.COM). Updated: 13.06.2024. URL: (date of access: 25.07.2024).

Found source (search robot):

Publication author(s) - K. E. SIMONSON:

K. E. SIMONSON → other publications, search: Libmonster USALibmonster WorldGoogleYandex


Reviews of professional authors
Order by: 
Per page: 
  • There are no comments yet
Related topics
Ann Jackson
Chicago, United States
82 views rating
13.06.2024 (42 days ago)
0 subscribers
0 votes
Related Articles
an hour ago · From Ann Jackson
2 hours ago · From Ann Jackson
2 hours ago · From Ann Jackson
5 hours ago · From Ann Jackson
Catalog: Science Economics 
5 days ago · From Ann Jackson
5 days ago · From Ann Jackson
5 days ago · From Ann Jackson
Progress Sums: 1,2,3,4,5..., -1,-2,-3,-4,-5... It can be found using the formula: Sn=(n²a₁+n)/2. Progress Sum: 1,3,6,10,15..., -1,-3,-6,-10,-15... It can be found using the formula: Sn= ((n+a₁)³-(n+a₁))/6. Progress Sum: 1,4,9,16,25..., -1,-4,-9,-16,-25... It can be found using the formula: Sn= a₁(n+a₁)(n²a₁+0.5n)/3. (Where n - is the number of summable terms, a₁ - is the first term of the progression).
Catalog: Mathematics 
6 days ago · From Andrei Verner
To the 80th anniversary of YEVGENY MAKSIMOVICH PRIMAKOV
Catalog: Science History Philosophy 
6 days ago · From Ann Jackson
6 days ago · From Ann Jackson

New publications:

Popular with readers:

News from other countries:

LIBMONSTER.COM - U.S. Digital Library

Create your author's collection of articles, books, author's works, biographies, photographic documents, files. Save forever your author's legacy in digital form. Click here to register as an author.
Library Partners


Editorial Contacts
Chat for Authors: U.S. LIVE: We are in social networks:

About · News · For Advertisers

U.S. Digital Library ® All rights reserved.
2014-2024, LIBMONSTER.COM is a part of Libmonster, international library network (open map)
Keeping the heritage of the United States of America


US-Great Britain Sweden Serbia
Russia Belarus Ukraine Kazakhstan Moldova Tajikistan Estonia Russia-2 Belarus-2

Create and store your author's collection at Libmonster: articles, books, studies. Libmonster will spread your heritage all over the world (through a network of affiliates, partner libraries, search engines, social networks). You will be able to share a link to your profile with colleagues, students, readers and other interested parties, in order to acquaint them with your copyright heritage. Once you register, you have more than 100 tools at your disposal to build your own author collection. It's free: it was, it is, and it always will be.

Download app for Android