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Documenting South Africa

After obtaining a hard-to-get journalist’s visa, Globe staff photographer Joanne Rathe was sent to South Africa for several weeks in 1986 and in 1990. Here is a selection of her compelling photos and words about her experience as the world mourns Nelson Mandela. “It was an assignment of a lifetime, I could embed myself in a country’s culture and politics and pursue stories of my choosing,” Rathe said. “I traveled throughout the country focusing on apartheid in the cities, black townships, and white suburban homes. My visa was for four weeks but in 1986 there were rumors of Mandela’s release from prison, so I overstayed my visa for two additional weeks. In 1990 rumors resurfaced again about Mandela’s impending release from prison. The Globe took a gamble and sent Globe reporter Wil Haygood and me to cover events in South Africa as apartheid restrictions were beginning to ease up. We witnessed an amazing, exuberant time in the country’s history. We end up staying six weeks and the gamble paid off, we saw Mandela return to freedom.” — Leanne Burden Seidel and Lisa Tuite.

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