In 1994, South Africa abolished its apartheid regime and Nelson Mandela became the country’s first democratically elected president. After decades of white minority rule, a new constitution granted equal right to all South Africans, regardless of skin colour, culture, religion or sexual orientation. The generation born after 1994 are the Born Frees.
Mandela maintained a keen focus on young people and their role in society. He saw them as carriers of hope, and as future leaders with a responsibility to make South Africa a better place to live: a Rainbow Nation with equal opportunities for all. “Mindful of your own challenges, you must continue to promote the principle of relentless freedom and democracy,” said Mandela.
For over a decade, photojournalist Ilvy Njiokiktjien has portrayed the Born Frees; through interviews, photography and film. Though equality exists on paper, in reality, South Africa struggles with issues such as high unemployment rates, economic inequality, and wounds from the apartheid era. Many young people experience racism and discrimination. Did the dream of the Rainbow Nation ever come true, or is it just a myth?
Ilvy Njiokiktjien (b. Netherlands, 1984) has worked as a current affairs and documentary photographer in a number of countries, focusing especially on Africa. Her work has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, TIMES and Der Spiegel. Born Free has received numerous awards, and in 2013, Njiokiktjien became Netherland’s first National Photographer. The images in the exhibition were taken between 2009 – 2019.