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Earth Songs

Earth Songs explores and celebrates spiritual connections to the land in South Africa. While the ownership of 'land' in South Africa is a highly contested issue, people have long marked and celebrated their spiritual connections to the land in ways that signify and re-imagine what it means for a variety of its inhabitants. Such meaning-making often etches the landscape, turning it into a natural canvass through which layered stories, manifest or buried, are expressed.

Paul Weinberg has traversed the breadth of the South African landscape to portray its deepand intrinsic meaning and encapsulate the inter-connections of cultures and peoples across the spectrum of time. He traces these intersections from the first peoples, the San and Khoi, whose domain this land was for centuries, to those who came from elsewhere on the continent and from across the seas. In quiet ways beyond the news and headlines, people of all traditions, persuasions, faiths and spiritual engagements partake in formal and informal rituals that mark the land in ways that align with their beliefs. They may go on pilgrimages, or re-ritualise places of archaeological, historical and cultural significance. Such rituals may take place in makeshift places of worship, in caves, next to rivers, or in churches, temples and mosques.

According to Associate Professor Hlonipha Mokoena at the University of Witwatersrand 'Paul Weinberg's photographs reflect our human desire for sanctuary. When the eye meets the stillness of a river estuary, or the isolation of a San rock painting, or the pantheon of deities decorating a Hindu temple, it is not 'God' that comes to mind but the image of the believer, the faithful, the acolyte who comes to this place to seek the soothing balm of absolution.' In some instances, these spiritual sites are well-known, like Mount Nhlangakazi, the endpoint of a 50 km pilgrimage for thousands of followers of the Ibanda lamaNazaretha (Shembe Church). In others, as in the case of Twee Rivieren, where a small statue at the confluence of the Swart and Liesbeek rivers in Cape Town pays homage to the brave Goringhaiqua Khoi who defeated the first colonisers in 1510, these sites are less known. The lesser-known sites often tell stories of contest and simultaneous spiritual significance that need to be told more volubly and heard more widely.

Paul's moving imagery harnesses the spiritual rituals of a cross-section of southern Africa’s belief systems - indigenous, Muslim, Jewish, African Zionist, Roman Catholic, Buddhist and more.

EarthSongs draws together the ethereal or intangible realm of belief and ritual with the very tangible soil that makes up our landscape. As the title indicates, it chants the songs of the people who inhabit this southern stretch of African earth.
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