Though South Africa is no longer under the Apartheid regime, many South Africans are still attempting to find their freedom. Shield and Spear explores the country’s new democracy, focusing on contemporary South African artists who are challenging its political climate. Many fear that if their leaders, namely the African National Congress, don’t instill positive change, then things could go back to the way they were.
Shield and Spear is inventive in that it offers a series of creative portraits of South African artists, simultaneously documenting their everyday challenges. Many of the artists, like Fokofpolisiekar and Brett Murray, face encroachments on their freedom of speech, as they pose controversial political statements about South Africa. LGBTQ photographer Zanele Muholi shows that artists have the added challenge of protecting their equipment and portfolios in the face of a government that doesn’t condone their artwork.
While the documentary challenges corruption in South Africa, it also offers a positive portrayal of the people who live there. The Smarteez, a fashion collective based in Soweto, also runs a free after school program for children in their spare time because they are dissatisfied with the education system in their community. The art, photography, music, and fashion represented in the film is incredible — more so when we’re shown the passion, motive and risk behind it.