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New From Umuzi: Bush of Ghosts: Life and War in Namibia 1986-90

Bush of GhostsThis October from Umuzi: Bush of Ghosts: Life and War in Namibia by photographer John Liebenberg and historian Patricia Hayes.

War can hide many things but not everything, and a camera can see more than is supposed.

The remarkable photographs in this book, taken from 1986 to 1990, show the “Border War” where the chief antagonists were the South African Defence Force and swapo, the South West Africa People’s Organisation.

John Liebenberg’s camera entered many places where cameras were not allowed, and his photographs show much of what has remained hidden ever since. They show battles fought and life lived on both sides, regardless of the conflict. Then they take us into the tumultuous transition period when international forces entered the theatre of conflict, and finally to the aftermath in Namibia, when a fledgling nation was testing its wings and living with its ghosts.

The photographic narrative is strongly augmented by the contextualising essay by historian Patricia Hayes, by transcripts of conversations between herself and Liebenberg as they worked through his archive, and by Liebenberg’s own extended comments about most of the images. The book is material for historians and a valuable resource for photographers. But mostly it is a space of recall for those who were there, and a reminder for those who were not.

About the Authors

John Liebenberg was introduced to Namibia in 1976 when, together with his fellow conscripts, he was sent to Ondangwa Air Force Base near the border with Angola. He later returned to Namibia and in 1985 was appointed photographer for a new Windhoek weekly, The Namibian. Following independence his family moved to Johannesburg where he worked for Drum magazine and did freelance work, notably in Angola. He is a senior and established news photographer whose work has been exhibited in Africa and Europe.

Patricia Hayes is Professor of History at the University of the Western Cape where she runs the Visual History research project, part of which involves researching southern African documentary photography. Her co-authored book The Colonising Camera: Photographs in the Making of Namibian History (1998) was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award. She has published several other works on the history of colonial Namibia, gender and visuality.

Book details


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