Iziko Museums of South Africa echo’s the heartfelt sadness at the loss of George Hallett. Iziko extends our condolences to his family and loved ones. George, fondly referred to as PappaG, had a significant impact on the lives of all who had contact with him. His joie de vive, positivity and laughter were infectious to say the least. His very unique perspectives – ability to see things differently – his sense of humor and thoughtful insights could instantly lift one out of a moment of darkness.
George was a familiar face at Iziko – sharing his passion, jokes and knowledge with learners, visitors and staff during walkabouts, workshops and the 2014 exhibition, curated by the late Pam Warne, Curator of Photography and New Media, and Joe Dolby retired Curator of Prints and Drawings. The exhibition, A Nomad’s Harvest: a retrospective of photographs by George Hallett showcased 200 works, augmented by a comprehensive presentation of book and record covers designed by Hallett.
A son of District Six, born on 30th December 1942, George was raised by his grandparents, in the fishing village of Hout Bay. His grandfather, Johnny Dyson significantly influenced his early creative development. His English teacher, Richard Rive not only awakened his political consciousness, Rive also later introduced him to the likes of James Matthews, the poet; Peter Clarke, painter and poet, as well as the Afrikaans writers’ collective called the Sestigers: Uys Krige, Jan Rabie and Rabie’s wife, the artist, Margery Wallace.
A teacher, mentor, designer, author and artist, George started his illustrious career as a street photographer in District Six – where he first learnt his craft. When District Six was declared a white area by the apartheid government in February 1966, James Matthews suggested that he photograph the area “before the bulldozers come in”. Armed with a roll of Tri-X film provided by mutual friend and local tailor Sakkie Misbach, every Saturday morning Hallett would photograph the vibrant District Six community before the demolition began.
George left South Africa, at a time when he felt that he could not live or breathe under the oppressive Apartheid Laws. George left, by boat and arrived in London in August 1970. There he made contact with the exile community of artists like Dumile Feni, Chris McGregor, Alex La Guma, Dudu Pukwana, Louis Moholo Moholo and Mongezi Feza. Soon he was working for The Times Educational Supplement as well as designing book covers for Heinemann African Writers series. His archive of artist portraits is a rich visual record of some of the most creative and radical spirits from the continent and the diaspora of the mid-late 20th century.
George lived and worked for varying periods of time in France, the Netherlands, Zimbabwe and the United States. He led a nomadic existence, travelling widely and photographing in many countries and contexts. He had an amazing work ethic, clarity of mind and vision. His work was invariably infused with the warmth of humanity. His intention was to always ‘photograph the beautiful things in life,’ a testament to, and an affirmation of, the life-enhancing qualities he strived to convey. He also worked as a moderator and lecturer at PENTEC (now Cape Peninsula University of Technology) photo school. He readily shared his knowledge and expertise, participating in and leading many photography workshops, interventions and discussions.
In his illustrious photographic career, he witnessed and documented some historical moments: the 1982 Culture and Resistance Festival hosted by the Medu Art Ensemble in Gaborone-Botswana; as one of the official photographers of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC); amongst many others. He was also commissioned by the Department of Arts and Culture in 2006 to manage and edit two historical volumes: Women by Women: 50 Years of Women’s Photography in South Africa (edited with Neo Ntsoma and Robin Comley), and Youth to Youth: 30 Years after Soweto ‘76.
We see you Pappa G. We’ll treasure your warmth and laughter.
Rest in Peace.