In the 19th Century the population of the harbour village of Kalk Bay, South Africa, was made up of emancipated slaves who originated from Batavia, Java and Malaysia. Fishing was their life-skill and it was not long before they played an important role in the community. When the railways arrived in 1883 the population of Kalk Bay grew rapidly and the way of life changed dramatically in the small fishing village.
During the Apartheid era which was instated by the ruling White Government in 1948, the fishermen and their families lived for years under what could referred to as a ‘Supended Sentence’. The government would have liked to have imposed the abhorrent Group Areas Act (Separate Development as it was referred to) on the community but because the fishermen needed to go out as early as 4 a.m to net the fish for the daily catch, they could not. There was no infrastructure for a transport system from the townships that would get them to the harbour so early in the morning. They had no choice but to allow the community to co-exist as they had done for so many years.
It was a unique situation. A peaceful multi racial society existing in a tiny pocket under the National Government’s repressive Apartheid system.
I began this project while living in the community. I used to regularly visit the harbour, the village community, photographing the characters, the local rituals around the trawling, the netting and the fishing.