an older woman with her back to the camera looking at the sea


23 Jul 2019 EMERGI-CUBES
a group of older men and women in a swimming people

Featuring: Sydelle Willow Smith

Presented by:

United Photo Industries EMERGI-CUBE Program


Curated by:
James Estrin and David Gonzalez, Co-Editors of the New York Times Lens Blog


Un/Settled is a project that explores white South African history, privilege, and identity. Every nation has a past and must confront it in order to see the present clearly, and to imagine a different future.

I grew up just as apartheid came to an end. Ever since starting primary school, I have been told that I am a child of the rainbow nation. The end of apartheid was signaled by a great gesture of forgiveness and hope, one that must have seemed at the time, to transcend decades of violent oppression. Many white people seem to have taken the release of Nelson Mandela, and the platforms for redemption and healing under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as absolution. It was not absolution.

As South Africa struggles to come to terms with persistent social and racial inequality, the project seeks to urge participants and audiences to examine their historical and future roles within a landscape marked by deep social scars.

Make sure to also check out related EMERGI-CUBES Walking Tour with James Estrin.


Sydelle Willow Smith is an award-winning South African photographer, filmmaker, NGO Director, and lecturer. She has a research background in Visual Anthropology and holds a masters degree in African Studies from Oxford University. During her degrees, Sydelle particularly focused on participatory visual research with youth in Southern Africa, and youth media advocacy in a social movement in South Africa.

Apart from her academic career, Sydelle has a broad body of work as a documentary photographer and filmmaker, work that has taken her across the African continent for clients like , UNAIDS, Médecins Sans Frontèrs (Doctors Without Borders), SF, Red Bull, DHL, Facebook, and The Treatment Action Campaign. She has worked as an editor, producer, researcher, script writer, camera operator, photographer, and director of various short media advocacy films across Africa.

Sydelle is the co-founder of Sunshine Cinema, a solar powered mobile cinema that hosts off the grid screenings in diverse spaces, partnering on impact campaigns, running media training workshops and virtual reality immersive engagements focusing on public health.
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