Defiance and Decadence Under Apartheid: An Exhibition of Billy Monk

Why We Recommend it

South African photographer Billy Monk’s (1937-1982) exhibition presents handprinted silver gelatin prints taken between 1967 and 1969 in Cape Town night club The Catacombs, a refuge of many outcasts during the height of the apartheid-era rule.


The apartheid policy enforced a wide variety of social, political and economical restrictions between people of different colours or creeds, but the underground subculture at The Catacombs remained defiant. Skin colour was not an issue, nor sexual or gender preferences. Black and white revellers rubbed shoulders with other marginalised minorities, and with the many Asian seamen who frequented the nearby port. The night club brought together an eclectic audience of eccentrics, from prostitutes, to transgendered, gays, sailors and young locals. They gathered together for the love of jazz music and partying.

Monk’s photographs are a kind of guilty pleasure. While they can be appreciated for both their gorgeous aesthetics, joyfulness and humour, they also reveal an unexpected portrait of Cape Town under apartheid as a rare documentation of the defiance of the public. Fifty years later, Billy Monk still symbolises the decadence and rebellion of the common people during that time. His passionate photographs of the world that he was a part of are full of intimacy and genuine spirit and perhaps the reason they are still so well received, to this day.

Image: Defiance and decadence under Apartheid by Billy Monk – Courtesy Boogie Woogie Photography


When: 17 Sep 2019 - 15 Oct 2019 Where: The Hive Spring, 3/F, Remex Centre – 42 Wong Chuk Hang Road – Wong Chuk Hang