The figure of the gangster in South African photography, literature and cinema

The figure of the gangster, a character nourished by mass media and collective imaginaries, has provided a foundation upon which to envision and/or challenge conceptions of ‘black’ masculinity in contemporary South African youth culture. Depicted in South African popular culture, the gangster figure appears invariably as a black heterosexual man rebelling against, while simultaneously reinforcing, his social and territorial marginality. This talk will consider the representation of the gangster with regard to its manifestations in post-94 photography, literature, music and cinema. It will address the complexities at stake in the performance of the ‘urban hustler’ and masculine ‘anti-hero’ and explore the tropes of conformity, vulnerability and so-called ‘deviance’.

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Born in Switzerland, Julie Bonzon (PhD) is a London-based art historian and a specialist in South African Photography. Following a Bachelors in History of Art and Social Sciences at Université de Lausanne (2014), she completed a Masters in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London (2015) and an AHRC-funded PhD in History of Art at University College London (2020). Bonzon has led curatorial and education projects at Magnum Photos London, The Photographer’s Gallery, The Ian Parry Scholarship and Phillips Auction House and worked at Messums London as Director of Photography. She is currently working as Artistic Director on a photography programme with The Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage in Lausanne and Co-Editor of the Contemporary African Photography (CAP) Prize. She has written for several publications, including L’Oeil de la Photographie and the 10th Bamako Biennale catalogue. She founded The Photographic Collective in June 2020.

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