The xenophobic attacks of 2008 represent a moment in SA’s history that most of us would prefer to forget. But, and especially given the permeating longevity of hatred of foreigners in SA, and the flare-ups of violence against them that happen all too often, they are a truth we should all be grappling with.

This is what award-winning photojournalists James Oatway and Alon Skuy have done with their exhibition, Killing The Other, which opens at the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre in Forest Town this week. The show runs until July 1 and was timed to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the 2008 outbreak of xenophobic violence that scorched SA and left more than 60 people dead.

Their images are a startling recap of those days of brutality and fear. Yet they also offer a reminder of the humanity of these visitors who have made our country their home. That they have families, livelihoods and dreams and in many cases have risked so much to make it to SA — and escape untenable situations in their own countries.

Oatway says: "The show aims to draw awareness to the dangers of discrimination, hate and indifference by providing a record of evidence from various outbreaks of xenophobic violence in SA over the past decade."

He goes on to ask: "Ten years after the worst outbreak of xenophobic violence, why do South Africans continue to target foreign nationals, particularly Africans? Are charities and grassroots organisations doing enough to stop the ‘othering’ of our neighbours? Are school children learning the importance of togetherness and unity between communities? Why does government routinely shy away from using the term ‘xenophobia’? These are some of the questions that need to be answered."

The jarring but beautiful works on display highlight the importance of photojournalism and the power of images.

"We hope," says Oatway, "that visitors to the exhibition will consider the importance of diversity and tolerance in our society, remember those who have been victims of the violence and take action to prevent future outbreaks."

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