The children in Pieter Hugo’s series “1994” look like they might have wandered out of unsettling fairy tales. On view in a show opening today at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York City and on view until March 11, Hugo’s young subjects are pictured in natural settings wearing fanciful or oversized cloths—the girls in gold sequins or pink dresses, the boys in brown jackets fit for adults. Made in the past several years, Hugo’s subjects are children in Rwanda and South Africa who were born since 1994, the year both countries underwent dramatic transformations. South Africa held the country’s first multiracial elections that spring, another step towards the end of Apartheid. Soon after, the Rwandan genocide began, resulting in close to a million deaths in 100 horrific days. Born after these events, Hugo’s subjects are both free from this history and bound by it.
Hugo has described the series as a kind of collaboration with the subjects, as some images were staged and styled by the children themselves. In that way, they celebrate the power of imagination and reinvention particular to this generation. “I noticed how the kids, particularly in South Africa, don’t carry the same historical baggage as their parents,” Hugo writes. But he acknowledges that their freedom may be fleeting. He writes, “I find their engagement with the world to be very refreshing in that they are not burdened by the past, but at the same time you witness them growing up with these liberation narratives that are in some ways fabrications. It’s like you know something they don’t know about the potential failure or shortcomings of these narratives.”
Pieter Hugo: The Hyena & Other Men
Kids Imagine Their Future Roles
Notable Photo Books of 2016: – Santu Mofokeng: Stories No. 1: Train Church and Santu Mofokeng: Stories 2: Concert in Sewefontein; 3: Funeral; 4: 27 April 1994