A photographic essay that seeks to capture the identities of history’s promised black “Born Frees” and attendees of one of Africa’s most prominent university (University of Cape Town). These subjects are soaked in red light signifying danger, debt and the guilt of failing their forbearers.
Being the beneficiaries of a struggle their families poured the last drops of their blood into, Black “Born Frees” have been left the unequivocal responsibility to succeed. Education is a survival strategy.
However, the system of formal education is not layered in their interests. They are forced to attend universities with which they cannot identify, learning Eurocentric curriculums from lecturers they do not culturally resonate with. This conflict with their academics is not limited to culture.
The reality of the economic environment that they are born into, is that they are mostly poor and/or not savvy with money. The outrageous fees of further education institutions is all but mitigated by financial aid schemes that have them pitied on campus, steeped in debt, studying and living like mice, with no real promise of employment thereafter. Universities like UCT gaining allure mainly from a strong probability of employment rather than quality education.
The fees dispassionately act as a kind of passive job reservation for the beneficiaries of a legacy of wealth. By keeping the poor out, skilled labourers with degrees are scarce, mostly white and are paid well. In this way, it is not in the interests of the economically and otherwise powerful to accelerate transformation in education.
Black Born Frees are then left with hundreds of thousands of Rands in debt from studying degrees they mostly have not passion or talent for to respond to their responsibility to succeed as The Beautiful Ones.