David Goldblatt

South Africa

Baby with childminders in Alexandra Street park, Hillbrow, 1972
Silver gelatin print
Edition of 10

Image courtesy Goodman Gallery, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States
Taken at the height of apartheid this image documents black subjects in relation to a white child on the ground. All three women wear what is called a ‘doek’. There may be different reasons they wear them.  A hair covering was as much a part of the domestic worker uniform, not only of that era but even present-day iterations, where the status of domestics is articulated through a uniform, which obliterates a sense of identity, subjectivity.

"The covering of the hair was therefore a tool by which white colonial culture attempted to erase the differences between black women while accentuating the differences between white and black women,” observes Professor Hlonipha Mokoena (Sunday Times, 2016).

However, the ‘doek’ worn by one of the older women in the trio might also designate her age and status – it is often worn as part of a formal outfit.

“I do have a sense when I’m photographing… that I’m recognising what has been largely overlooked or not seen, and I have a sense both of its past and its weight,” Goldblattt says in the book The Last Interview, published by Steidl in 2019.