Book review: The Bang-Bang Club

Like many others my age, I haven’t lived through Apartheid and experienced any acts of extreme violence. For thatI am grateful, of course. But I always wonder what it would have been like as: (1) an opinionated and outspoken coloured woman and (2) a journalist during the 80s and early 90s. I also wasn’t aware of how bad the post-Apartheid violence really was… not until I read The Bang-Bang Club by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva.

The two authors were part of a group of four photojournalists who became known as The Bang-Bang Club while South Africa was transitioning from an Apartheid state. They were fearless and entered the most dangerous townships and risked their lives to capture the violence that broke out between the Xhosas and the Zulus which was instigated by the white regime.

Although Marinovich and Silva are co-authors, the story is told through the eyes of Marinovich. I think the great detail with which he describes children (and adults) being murdered and hacked to death in front of other people is what makes this story a really, really good one. It’s like you are being taken back in time just to taste what the victims of violence during that era have experienced.

It’s really shocking to know how groups of people can be influenced so easily. And what is even more scary is the ease with which the perpatrators could wrench a sharp object into another human being, the ease with which they could douse with petrol someone else who was basically a victim or Apartheid just like him or her. And they would so easily strike that match and watch as the victim is calling out for help while on fire. They would also so easily rape young girls of a different ethnicity as well as slice off the body parts of a living human being.

It might all sound like a scary Hollywood movie, yet this is what happened just less than 20 years ago. The Bang-Bang Club is a must read for each and every South African, especially for those who did not grow up during Apartheid. This book will definitely keep you glued!

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