I Collect Gingers: Anthea Pokroy photographed 500 red-headed people

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I collect gingers is a project about identity, prejudice and racial classification, segregation and elitism which explores my own personal histories of being Jewish and South African. This artwork will be manifested by collecting gingers (or red heads) through archiving and documenting them individually and in groups. This will be presented as a multimedia exhibition which will include photography, video, installation and performance.

I started collecting gingers in August 2010. 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.

The collecting process consists of photographing the gingers in a studio with stark lighting and white clothing. The head and shoulders shot is reminiscent of a passport photograph and is clearly meant only for the purpose of documentation. Sample shots of their hair, skin and eyes are taken and a strand of their hair collected. As of December 2011, I have collected over 200 gingers in this way and will continue to do so until my exhibition in mid 2012. be in touch if you are interested in getting involved.”

Anthea Pokroy is a ginger artist based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

She was born in 1986 in Johannesburg and, apart from spending time in London from 2008 until 2010, continues to live and work there. She obtained her BA Fine Arts from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2007 and graduated cum laude.

She works primarily in photography as well as in video, installation and performance. She has taken part in many group exhibitions since 2005, including shows at The Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, Museum Africa, Gordart Gallery, the Alliance Francaise and many independent group shows until 2012. She has participated in the Martienssen Prize in 2005, 2006 and 2007, Absa L’Atelier Awards in 2007 and 2008, and Sasol New Signatures in 2010. Recently, in 2013, she had her first solo exhibition entitled I collect gingers at Speke Photographic/ CIRCA on Jellicoe.