Anthea Pokroy is a ginger artist and photographer based in Joburg. I Collect Gingers is her ongoing portrait series, started in 2010, and is about identity, prejudice and racial classification, segregation and elitism.
She says, “As a ginger myself, what initially interested me was the beautiful, romantic colour palette of a ginger person and all that it connotes. It was my first shoot, where I had seven gingers gathering at the same time, which kick-started my collection process. There was an innate sense of community and collective experience that emerged from amongst the ‘otherness’ of the gingers.
The context of this work relates directly to my own personal histories of being Jewish and South African (and, of course, Ginger). In both these cultural histories, there has been extreme persecution, ostracism and even genocide, due to one’s appearance, race and religion. In Nazi Germany, Hitler sought to create an elite, pure Aryan race. In order to do this, he would have to eradicate what he considered weak, sub-human (“untermensch”) genes – that of Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and so on.
Apartheid South Africa is infamous for its practice of racial discrimination, separation and inequality. As with the Nuremberg Laws, “genetic segregation” in South Africa was legally formalised with the Immorality Act and the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act.
Classification and segregation, both in terms of exclusivity/elitism and ostracism/discrimination, due to skin colour, religion, or other superficial distinctions, (why not hair colour too?) are still notions that are very prominent in today’s society both in South Africa, Africa and abroad. This body of work hopes to clearly highlight this using the gingers as a symbol of both the oppressed and the oppressor.”
Anthea’s process has consisted of photographing red heads in a studio with stark lighting and white clothing. She has taken head and shoulder shots purposefully to be reminiscent of passport photographs which are clearly meant only for the purpose of documentation. Sample shots of her models’ hair, skin and eyes are taken and a strand of their hair collected. So far, Anthea has documented 440 red haired people of all ages.
Her first solo show will be at Circa Gallery in Rosebank, opening on 17 January 2013. The exhibition will be accompanied by a coffe table type book including 500 portraits, text and other photos taken throughout the project.