Middle East & Africa

Sue Williamson
Better Lives: Richard Belalufu

In her 2003 series “Better Lives”, Sue Williamson explores stories of immigrants in search of a better life in a historically contentious South Africa. In an attempt to address and confront xenophobia in South African history, Better Lives series subverts racism and prejudice by emphasizing the immigrant as human, and thus gives the subjects a voice. “Better Lives: Richard Belalufu” tells a tale of surviving in a hostile South Africa through the undercurrent reflections on violence, abuse and the difficulty of finding home as an immigrant. Referring to South African studio-photography, the Better Lives series is a demanding confrontation of the subjects whose gaze answers directly to the viewer.

Richard Belalufu is an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He arrived in Cape Town in 1994, leaving his family behind when he heard the Mobutu regime was hunting him down, as he was playing the role of a double agent. He has a diploma in electro-mechanical engineering, and he had an important job for a big company in DRC but now works on a construction site in Cape Town. Family were finally able to join him some years later. He finds life very hard. Xenophobia is a big problem.

Sue Williamson (b. 1941, Lichfield, United Kingdom) currently based in Cape Town, occupies an influential and highly respected position in the South African art world, not only for her artistic practice but also for her long history as a writer and cultural worker. Trained as a printmaker, Williamson now includes installation, photography and video in her oeuvre. As part of the generation of South African artists who practiced in the 1970s and who addressed social change in the then apartheid South Africa, Williamson’s practice has continued to remain interested in political struggle and emancipation. In her work, she brings the marginalized into the mainstream consciousness of society, making visible the unseen, sheaving away layers of illusion to re-present reality in a fresh light. Her recent video work is concerned with South African immigrants and with the concept of return.