Margaret Courtney-Clark Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain
Namibia is steeped in histories dating from the earliest inhabitants – Khoi, Bushmen, Herero, Namaqua, Damara et al to German occupation, to the South Africans and apartheid, and now to ‘liberation’ and statehood – a nation of diverse peoples and cultures in a vast land of seeming nothingness and unparalleled light. I seek out the traces of their passing on the land.
Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain is a record of this social process, which has always hinged on the fragility of Hope.
The existential world of the people I photograph is located in an unforgiving environment where life is precarious: little or no rain, scarce water and food, people abandoned by their government and forced to migrate to flee the emptiness... Their only anchor is the expectation that life will persist against these odds.
I keep returning to the women and men I have met, photographing them anew as they share their unfolding stories.
Every form of human existence and of Nature, in its infinite variety, has wonder at its very core, and it is our ‘openness’ to the world that makes us both free to create in it and, at the same time, be responsible for our creations.
My art derives from this space, the point where freedom meets responsibility, rationality meets imagination, and self meets other. This silent point is the source of all that is humanly significant.
My own motivation is to find a place here among my fellow people, building relationships over time that allow me to discover, against the seared backdrop, their hidden world of nurtured aspirations, the embodiment of Hope.
About the author
Margaret Courtney-Clarke was born in Swakopmund, Namibia in 1949 where she is currently based. After studying art and photography in South Africa, she spent the next four decades working as a photographer in Italy, the USA and across Africa.
Courtney-Clarke began her career working under Italian photographer and filmmaker Pasquale De Antonis photographing art, architecture and antiquities, before travelling as a freelance photographer on magazine assignments in Europe and Africa during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1979 Courtney-Clarke became a persona non grata under the Apartheid laws and renounced her South African citizenship – she would later return to South West Africa under the protection of the United Nations and claim her Namibian citizenship. Throughout her career, Courtney-Clarke would pursue personal projects in Africa documenting feminine identity.
The body of work, Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain (2014–18), marks a new phase in Courtney-Clarke’s photographic work, documenting the artist’s return to Namibia and her engagement with its people and a landscape in crisis.
She has been recognised by the Deutscher Fotobuchpreis; the Kraszna-Krausz Book Award (longlisted); the 2018 PDN Photo Annual and the 2015 Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson HCB Award (nominated). Over 200 exhibitions of Courtney-Clarke’s photography have been held around the world.
Dedicated publications on Courtney-Clarke’s work include, amongst others, Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain (2017); her trilogy on the art of African women, Ndebele (2002); African Canvas (1990) and Imazighen (1996) as well as several collaborations with Maya Angelou.
Joana Choumali, Ça va aller, 2016-2019
Shahidul Alam, Still She Smiles, 2014
Margaret Courtney-Clarke, Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain, 2014 - 2018
Rena Effendi, Transylvania: Built on Grass, 2012
Lucas Foglia, Human Nature, 2006 – 2019
Janelle Lynch, Another Way of Looking at Love, 2015-2018
Gideon Mendel, A Testament of Faded Memory, 2016
Ross McDonnell, Limbs, 2012
Ivor Prickett, End of the Caliphate, 2016 - 2018
Robin Rhode, Principle of Hope, 2017
Awoiska van der Molen, Am schwarzen Himmelsrund, 2010-2018
Alexia Webster, Street Studios, 2011-2018