All the launches for the exhibition of Bonile Bam’s work have now been completed, though the work will still be exhibited for some two months.
Although the main launch was in the Auckland Park, Kingsway campus, mini-launches were held at the three other campuses in the libraries in Bunting Road, Doornfontein and today, in Soweto. The crowds at the mini-launches were small but the engagement was intense and emotionally charged
People were very engrossed in the choices that Bonile Bam has made, how he acted with respect and related to the dignity of villagers but especially Madiba when he became seriously ill and was dying.
In Bunting Road, one person referred to a picture taken of Morgan Tsvangirai when he was seriously ill and wanted to be sure that Bonile had not taken similar photographs, though Bam had specifically indicated his decision to refuse to photograph the dying or dead Mandela. He knew that he would not want photographs of his father in a similar state.
People were alarmed at the dangerous lack of safeguarding of Bonile’s photographic work, some of it still as negatives, others stored in various places in various parts of South Africa, vulnerable to damage and destruction. One librarian at Doornfontein pleaded with him to let them safeguard his work, assuring him it would be safe in their hands.
The publicity for the mini-launches does not seem to have reached many people, for they complained about coming to hear of the launch by chance and in one case, felt that if things had been done properly the main launch ought to have been in Soweto, for they had a big hall attached to the library.
On every occasion, Bonile spoke with a combination of simplicity, humility, passion but also awareness of and simply stating the sacrifices he made-in terms of material security- because of his integrity. As he spoke of respect and dignity, the Soweto audience nodded their heads. Only two people spoke. This was not because of a lack of engagement. They were completely absorbed in what he said. A way needs to be found to support his work and to safeguard and archive his work securely.