Jansen van Staden



After the death of my father in 2011, I discovered a letter, written to his psychotherapist, about his time in the Border War. He dedicated his life to sustainable projects and education in African countries, and what I read in the letter took me by surprise. It was not the man I knew. The letter detailed horrific incidents he took part in, as a 17 year old boy.

One paragraph from the letter, bothered me the most: “…she stated that I joined and did what I did, because I wanted to kill people. It is truer than true.”

Questions started harassing me. How was he raised? What influence did the apartheid regime and it’s ideologies have on the family? What circumstances could lead a 17 year old boy, to have such murderous intent? Where does all this violence stem from?



Through this journey, I discovered just how much my life has been influenced by my father’s trauma. How my father’s siblings are still affected by the ideologies of their father. Generations of trauma, ignorantly passed on, even through our genes. My generation, is the first of South Africans not to experience war. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to observe all this within ourselves. To ensure that it does not continue.



After the war, my father turned against everything the knew. He left his father, and family. He craved resolve. He wanted so badly, to be free from his shadows. But the consequences of his actions haunted him his whole life. He tried his best to keep it from his children, and his wives. Ultimately, it slipped though the cracks. Microlight is a collection of anecdotes. And through telling these stories, I hope to open this discussion. I yearn for healing. I want to understand, so that I can accept, and move on.



Short Bio

b.1986 Potchefstroom, South Africa Strongly influenced by his skateboarding background, Van Staden uses street photography as a conceptual entry point to reflect on personal imaginaries and social constructs of belonging and disconnect. Van Staden became a fellow at the Photographers’ Masterclass of the Goethe Institut in 2017 and graduated in 2018. His work was shown in Cities and Memory at Brandts, Odense as part of the Photo Biennale in Denmark (2016) and in Nimes, France as part of the South African show “Resiste” at NegPos gallery (2017). He recently received the CAP prize (2019) for his series “Microlight”, and the concurrent exhibitions and screenings have started traveling Europe and Africa. He lives and works in Cape Town. Represented by From here on, Johannesburg.

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The Emerging Photographer Fund is supported by generous donors to the Magnum Foundation

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