Little did architect student Roelof Petrus van Wyk know his fascination with photography would develop into an exploration of the Afrikaner through portraiture. He started photographing buildings, and gradually shifted into photographing friends. Years, and hundreds of photographs later, this collection of portraits developed into Die Jong Afrikaner.
‘Afrikaans culture has blossomed,’ said Van Wyk in an interview at Sweet Plum Café in Cape Town. His slight grizzle undercut his droll voice and slicked hair while he discussed new Afrikaans music, the KKNK and other ways Afrikaans culture has grown in the post-Apartheid era. ‘As a tribe we’ve gone through an extreme identity shift. You can be a “young Afrikaner” at 12 or 89 – it’s not about age. It’s about the fact that we are the newest generation of Afrikaners.’
One of the portraits in his exhibition is Die Antwoord front-woman Yolandi Vi$$er. He laughs when I ask about her. ‘When I photographed Yolandi Vi$$er she was still Anri du Toit and living on the tenth floor of Gardens Centre,’ he says flippantly. Unlike her normal brass style, Van Wyk’s portrait of Vi$$er is unpretentious, classic, styled – like all of his portraits. His photographs combine the classic, clean lines and black backgrounds of the Dutch masters with the ethno-graphic photography of the 1850s – 1920s. ‘Ethno-graphic portraiture photographed African tribes in that way; like an object,’ he says, ‘I strip down my subjects and make them timeless, without make-up. They could have been photographed like this 400 years ago.’
If you don’t have a chance to catch the exhibition at Commune 1 in Cape Town – or even if you do – look out for the 300 page linen book, ‘an art work in itself. Not a catalogue. This is no Afrikaners for Dummies!’ says Van Wyk. You can find it for R850 at any Exclusive Books. An even easier option is to ‘like’ the Facebook page, which Van Wyk describes as a ‘living artwork’. The portraits and videos are uploaded there, ‘so you can be part of the show, even if you live in Bloem.’